Irvine-based innovative global higher education institution Westcliff University has embarked upon a partnership this year with one of the largest and most active angel investor networks in the nation, Tech Coast Angels (TCA), to infuse entrepreneurship inside and outside the classroom and create real-life learning opportunities for students by enhancing the school’s entrepreneurial culture.
Westcliff University has been around for almost 30 years in Orange County and has Colleges of Business, Education, Technology & Engineering, and Law, with a focus on the adult student population. Online programs have been available for over 10 years now given their expertise in technologies. Even campus classes infuse a lot of technology into the classroom. As a result, during the pandemic, Westcliff easily managed the transition as they were already in a learning management system that was housed online, and a lot of the faculty members already had experience teaching online. The university has over 4,000 students, the majority of them at the Irvine campus. Other campus locations include Cerritos locally and Miami, Florida, on the east coast, with plans to expand further, hopefully to Canada next.
“What has really been successful for us is supporting the students as much as we can throughout the whole educational journey and experience that they have at Westcliff. We want to make sure that we help them become successful,” says President and CEO Dr. Anthony Lee. “We teach them life skills, how to be better personally and professionally, guiding them along the way. We have a very strong academic resource center, writing center, tutors, and a big focus on making sure we prepare students for graduation and getting jobs after graduation.”
The curriculum offered has a focus on valuable practical and relevant skills, preparing students for the workforce, aligned with the university’s belief in the entrepreneurial mindset required, whether starting a business or working for another company. Westcliff recently opened the Westcliff Prep Academy which serves middle school and high school students.
“We’ve always thought about how important it is to have a lot of those skills that aren’t normally taught at those levels which are so important to life and to communication, interpersonal skills, but also an entrepreneur mindset, which means being able to think critically, being creative, trying to make sure that we look at risk versus reward, having an ROI on things,” shares Dr. Lee. “We noticed those skills could be improved for some of our students and what better way to help prepare them for college than by educating them earlier on and infusing those very important skills for their future.”
The announcement of the Prep Academy has received great feedback from the community said Dr. Lee. “We’re trying to be different and focus on skill sets that will help prepare even high school students, for example, to get a job once they graduate. We have a web development coding boot camp for learning coding skills. We’re going to have mobile game development skills that they’ll be learning. It’s a variety of things that we’re going to expose them to, especially on the technology side.”
There is also a partnership with Tech Coast Angels that Dr. Lee is thrilled to share. “TCA is a huge organization. It’s one of the biggest angel investment groups in the U.S. And having the opportunity for our students, our faculty, to watch Shark Tank-style pitch sessions is going to be fun and educational.” Students will learn what investors look at when they want to evaluate a possible business, what areas to focus on when trying to start a business or running a business that’s already mature. “A lot of these things are very relevant across the entire curriculum for us, and I think having ‘living case studies’ (is what we like to call it) for our students is going to just enrich the educational experience that we’re going to have.”
Setting up a campus in Irvine was a strategic decision. “Irvine is a hub to Fortune 1000 companies. We want to position ourselves to be close to the companies that hopefully will be hiring our students upon graduation and some of them have for sure. We’re continuing to foster those relationships,” says Dr. Lee. “Orange County also has a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s been flourishing and getting better. We have students that come from over 100 countries worldwide. Being able to be in a great location, very business oriented, safe and a great lifestyle city to live in as well, we wanted to provide that kind of environment and atmosphere for our students.” Westcliff University also believes strongly in community services and supports several nonprofit organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County, Laura’s House, Together We Rise, Toys for Tots, Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, American Cancer Society, 2nd Harvest Food Bank Orange County, Mercy House Living Centers Santa Ana, and Red Cross.
Westcliff’s seven core values include integrity, accountability, social responsibility, global citizenship, diversity, equity, and inclusion, collaboration, and compassion, all of which are crucial to its culture. Dr. Lee adds, “If you’re able to lead with compassion and show people that you care and you really want to truly, sincerely help them and be there to support them, then that makes things so much easier as you’re working with them toward a common goal of student success.”
Westcliff has two information sessions scheduled on April 26. The webinars provide an opportunity to hear from student ambassadors and the admissions team and address any questions regarding the application process, scholarship opportunities, English language requirements, and much more.