A Rich History of Pioneering

The History of California Southern University

Founded with a Vision

California Southern University was founded in 1978—as Southern California University for Professional Studies (SCUPS)—by Dr. Donald Hecht, who wanted to provide working adults with a more effective and efficient way to better their lives through higher education.

An engineer who decided mid-career to devote his professional life to higher education, Dr. Hecht knew first-hand the challenges facing the adult learner. He had earned his master’s and doctoral degrees by commuting more than 40 miles to a traditional university while working to support a growing family.

Dr. Hecht founded SCUPS, “to bring the education to the student” via the best available technology at the time, traditional correspondence learning. The university was approved by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education in December 1978 and began offering business degrees at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

It was while working as an instructor in the university’s early days that Dr. Hecht began to appreciate the power of one-to-one faculty mentoring. “Working in this manner, one-to-one instead of one-to-many as in the classroom setting, the mentor is able to understand the needs, values and personal experiences that the learner brings to the learning environment. The mentor is then able to guide the learner through the course material, meeting his or her educational goals with a personal, humanistic touch. In my opinion, this is the hallmark of learning at its very best.”

Over the years, the learning technology has evolved, but one-to-one faculty mentoring, delivered with a personal touch, has remained the cornerstone of the CalSouthern educational model.

A Pioneer in Distance Education

Through the 1980s and ’90s, the university established itself as a pioneer in distance learning and was among the first to employ terms and concepts such as one-to-one faculty mentoring, active self-learning and personalized distance learning.

With the university responding to growing demand for degree programs in the fields of business, psychology, law and criminal justice, its reputation for academic quality and value grew to be international in scope. The student body expanded rapidly with enrollments from across the country and around the world. The faculty more than tripled in size. Then, as now, faculty mentors were not only highly credentialed educators, but also experienced practitioners in the fields that they taught.

As the new millennium approached, the university continued to incorporate advancements in technology to facilitate the delivery of its educational services. The transition to online education began, and was fully implemented in 2007.

A New Name, a New Campus

When the transition to a fully online university was complete, the institution’s name was officially changed to California Southern University and its campus was relocated to its current Costa Mesa, CA location.

New learner services and resources were added. The CalSouthern library developed one of the most robust collections of research databases in distance education. New academic concentrations were added to allow learners to tailor their academic programs to their particular interests. The CalSouthern Master Lecture Series was launched, enabling learners to interact with renowned scholars, authors and practitioners in psychology, business and law.

In 2010, the university was granted accreditation by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education and recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. DEAC accreditation gave CalSouthern the country’s only nationally accredited Doctor of Psychology degree, which further spurred the program’s growth.

A Bright Future

In 2015, CalSouthern was granted regional accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). An affirmation of the rigor and quality of the university’s academic programs, regional accreditation also greatly enhances the transferability of credits and the recognition of degrees in the academic community and in the workplace.

Today, CalSouthern is comprised of the Schools of Behavioral Sciences, Business, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, Nursing and Law, offering more than 30 online degree and certificate programs. Degrees are offered at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Academic support staff, student success advisors, an institutional effectiveness team and a university-wide culture of assessment and continuous improvement ensure that, even as CalSouthern grows, the focus on student satisfaction and success never wavers.

In this manner, CalSouthern remains true to Dr. Hecht’s original vision: to offer distance education of the highest quality through one-to-one faculty mentoring, delivered with a personal touch.

Dr. Donald Hecht talks about the founding of California Southern University

History of Degree Introductions


  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration (AABA)*
  • Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA)
  • Master in Business Administration (MBA)
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice (AACJ)*
  • Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies (AAPS)*
  • Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies (AALS)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (BACJ)*
  • Bachelor of Science in Law (BSL)*
  • Master of Science in Law (MSL)
  • Master of Laws (LLM)
  • Juris Doctor (JD)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (BA)
  • Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)
  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)*
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)*
  • Master of Science in Management of Engineering and Technology (MS)*
  • Doctor of Science in Management of Engineering and Technology (ScD)*
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Management of Engineering and Technology (PhD)*
  • Master of Science in Psychology (MS)
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (BSCJ)
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Master of Science in Law Enforcement Executive Leadership (MSLEEL)
  • Master of Science in Psychology (MS)
  • Master of Science in Dispute Resolution (MSDR)
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSDR)

* This program has been discontinued.