NORTHRIDGE — Hoping to cash in on the region's growing entertainment industry, Cal State Northridge is planning to start a new entertainment industry training institute that would combine academic disciplines and could open as early as fall 1998.
A committee of three deans, who have been studying the idea for at least six months, has submitted a funding proposal for the administration to consider as part of the university's 1997-98 budget.
Although the committee's request for $200,000 in start-up money has yet to be approved, top CSUN officials said last week that school President Blenda J. Wilson is enthusiastic and that the proposed Entertainment Industry Institute has widespread support.
"We are trying to position the university and the new College of Arts, Media and Communication so we can work effectively with the entertainment industry for both attracting and placing students," said Louanne Kennedy, CSUN provost and vice president for academic affairs.
"The entertainment sector is emerging as the major industry force in Southern California," said PhilipHandler, dean of the College of Arts and a member of the group studying the idea. "An important part of our strategic planning is a new, closer partnership with the communities around us and with the corporate world in the region. As we think about these partnerships, the institute makes sense."
The new institute would award bachelor's and eventually master's degrees in interdisciplinary programs including journalism, broadcasting, film, theater, music, business, engineering, and computer science, Handler said.
In a partnership with local companies including Warner Bros., DreamWorks SKG, and Disney, students would learn in studios as well as classrooms, earning internships and eventually jobs, Handler said. In fact, he said, one impetus for the plan has been "the industry has come to us looking for talents."
CSUN's Entertainment Industry Institute would be different from existing programs at USC, UCLA and the American Film Institute, Handler said, because they tend to be very specialized and have a small number of students.
"We'll have several thousands of students as they come from different faculties," Handler said.
Spokesmen for USC and UCLA could not be reached for comment Friday.
Wilson, CSUN's president, is expected to announce an executive advisory council of entertainment industry leaders before the end of the spring semester, according to Handler. Meanwhile, Handler said, a yet-to-be announced group of CSUN faculty members will begin developing curricula and start consulting with private industry.
The faculty group's recommendations may be ready by next spring, Handler said. Organizers hope to spend no more than $500,000 in university funds over the course of four years, he said, and through industry donations make the institute self-supporting after five years.
Some industry executives have already been informally speaking with CSUN officials about the plan.
Mike Grillo, head of feature film production at DreamWorks and a 1971 CSUN business graduate, said the proposed institute is a terrific idea. "All schools should do this, not just Northridge. . . . There's an absolute need."
Mike L. Klausman, president of CBS Studio Center and a CSUN biology graduate, agreed. "I can't tell you how important a well-rounded education is to get into the entertainment business."
Klausman said the proposed Entertainment Institute will attract more and better students to CSUN. "Where would you go? A university that lets you visit a studio regularly or keeps you in a classroom?"
The idea arose as the university, which is undergoing a $321-million overhaul of earthquake damage, began looking at ways to improve "the way we do business," Wilson said in a recent interview.
"We are looking at every option, including the way we teach" to stay competitive in the new century, Wilson said.
Handler said CSUN's Department of Radio, Television and Film, which is part of the College of Arts, has already been experimenting with a new teaching approach. Under an informal arrangement with CBS' Klausman, students regularly visit CBS Studio Center in Studio City, where they watch the taping of sitcoms after classes in comedy writing.
"It's a matter of being able to position our students for the best jobs in the industry," Kennedy, the campus provost, said.