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Issam Ghazzawi gives insight into economy

Professor Issam Ghazzawi has been teaching at La Verne for more than 10 years in the College of Business and Public Management. He keeps his schedule full as an adviser for the Muslim Student Association, the Saudi Student Associa­tion and Students in Free Enterprise. / photo by Scott Mirimanian

Kristen Campbell
Editor in Chief

Born and raised in Lebanon, Issam Ghazzawi, associate professor of management, came over to the United States to further his education in business.

Here he sits down to talk about his five academic degrees, how he feels about economic predictors and what it is like being the only one of his family living in the United States.

Tell me about your academic history.

Well, I started at the Lebanese University so I graduated from the public university of Lebanon. Then I came to the States to assume my graduate work. I went to a few colleges. I got an MBA from a college in Texas called Sul Ross State University. I then headed to the Midwest to the Ohio State University where I got my master’s degree in human resources. Then I ended at the University of Pittsburgh for my Ph.D.

Of course, that is in a nutshell. After college I did some work, for example I did some work for the Office of Budgeting and Planning at the University of Pittsburgh. I worked for the Vice Chancellor for planning and budgeting, and he also happened to be my professor so that is how I got the job. He said, ‘Why don’t you work for me?

I encourage everyone to pursue graduate work because it is fun and you get to meet a lot of great people and a lot of great professors. I was very fortunate to meet the great professors especially at (Pittsburgh). One of my professors was a former adviser for the Secretary of Education. He happened to be on the board of trustees and the board of directors for big organizations in the States, especially in Pittsburgh. He was a very big guy on campus and he became my adviser so I had a great relationship with him. He was a good father figure and that helps when you have someone to take care of you.

How did you end up making your way to the University of La Verne?

After college I moved to Texas. I worked for a commissioned real estate development company. Then things moved me because I had an interesting background. My company signed a venture with a Canadian company so I had to move to Toronto, Canada for two and a half years. Basically I was a commuter between the States and Toronto. After eight years, I came to California. Some key partners in my organization had a company called the Environmental Products Corporation so I came to California and became of the vice presidents.

Afterward I worked for a technology company and La Verne was looking for an adjunct professor. So I applied for this position and I became an adjunct professor and I love teaching. Eventually teaching led me to becoming a full-time faculty. I abandoned my senior management work with this technology company.

I have served on certain advisory boards for technology companies. But I enjoyed teaching and then in 2005 or 2006 I was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award. After that I got so excited about teaching I thought, ‘You know what? This is a good college to be at.’

I decided then to become a full-time professor at ULV.

Do you miss working for the larger corporations?

I won’t say I won’t miss it but I still get the opportunities to do consultations here and there. So I am still connected with the big corporations. As a matter of fact, being a faculty member and also being an adviser for a student organization called SIFE, I am always connected with the companies.

Right now I am working on a case study with Campbell Soup. I am working closely with the vice president of corporate responsibility and sustainability. So I meet with those people still and see what is happening. I also meet with the district manager of Sam’s Club. I am always in the mix with big companies because I have many friends who are still in the industry.

Were you born in Lebanon? Is your family here in the United States with you?

I was born and raised in Lebanon. I came to the States after I finished my first degree. While I was going to college there, I was working with the counseling section of one of the embassies. I came over by myself and none of my immediate family has come over to the States with me. I have a few cousins who live here, but nobody from my immediate family does. One of my brothers did come to visit me a few times.

I go back to visit my family every once in a while. I used to go more often, but in fact the last time I went to Lebanon was seven years ago. Unfortunately sometimes the situations are not cooperative and I was not able to go over as planned multiple times.

Do you have plans as far as teaching at ULV or going back to the large corporations?

For the time being, I enjoy being in the college environment. I want to continue teaching and to do more research and community service.

Currently I am very active in research and I enjoy it very much. I am active in the community as well.

What sort of research do you usually get involved in?

I am interested a lot in job satisfaction and have published much research on the subject. I am currently working with two other colleagues on a case study called, ‘Job Satisfaction and Spirituality.’ We are trying to see if there is any relationship between spirituality and job satisfaction.

We are doing the surveys but have not done any statistical analysis. But in reviewing the literature, it suggests there might be a link. So now we are doing an empirical study to see how it works. We are close to 300 surveys but we need more to do a statistical analysis.

I am currently working on a case study with Campbell Soup related to corporate social responsibility. I also have done research on motivation through goal setting.

The Campbell Soup one will be very interesting. There are some people who believe in organization and responsibility while others believe corporations exist to make money.

There is a debate happening and I am trying to put it to bed, in an academic context. I would then have to present an unbiased view on how corporate responsibility stands.

How do you choose what you are going to do research on?

I try to research as much as possible within my discipline. I sometimes look at a concept that is not really well researched. Sometimes I get invited to research with other people.

I recently was collaborating with a group of professors from Turkey who invited me to work with them. We are currently waiting on the response from a journal we submitted the study to.

What do you find to be one of your greatest accomplishments?

I always see something as an accomplishment when I see people are happy about what I do. I like it when people are appreciative and when I can put a smile on their face.

I do a lot of community work and it is very rewarding when you feel people appreciate it.

I direct the REACH business camp at ULV. This is really one of my best accomplishments at the University. I bring high school juniors to live on campus for three weeks and give them a taste of college. When they leave, they are so sad to leave they are pumped up about their future. Most of them incline to go to college, but inclination counts for nothing without action.

I am finding 95 percent of the students are in college today. They send me emails telling me how much the program has influenced their self belief to pursue higher education.

Interestingly, a lot of them come from poor, underserved families and they come from high schools that traditionally do not send many to college.

I help increase their likelihood to go to college or I encourage those who did not want to go that just needed the push.

What are your degrees in?

Well I have two bachelor’s degrees, one in business and one in finance. I have two master’s degrees, one in business and one in labor and human resources. And I have a doctorate degree in higher education administration. It was a lot of school.

How do you feel the federal government should try and approach our recession?

That is a very long subject to talk about. But I agree with what they are doing today by trying to stimulate the economy. It is very interesting because I have researched on the multiplier effect of spending. We need to create a multiplier effect and focus on the areas where it encourages more spending.

For example, if you give the money to people who need to eat, those people will spend the money to eat. As long as multiplication happens, it will move the economy forward. But if you give money to people who will put it in the bank, it is not going to help the economy in the short-run. It absolutely cannot multiply by sitting still. Also, don’t give it to big companies that are going to put it into a safe or have it in a secure account.

We should generate more spending. Let’s say I take a dollar and I take it to the restaurant to eat. The restaurant owner will take the money to buy food and the person who sold the food will use the money to buy other materials. This is how we can create multiplication of the economy.

There is no cure that will work 100 percent, but this will help get it done.

The recession is not because of today or today’s behaviors of spending. It is due to a few years of stand-still spending.

Taking what we see in today’s economy, this government is trying to do everything. I am not in the place to say there is something they can do better. It will just develop slowly, like every new project.

Economy is about cycles. When will the economy recover? Nobody knows.

Predictors of the economy’s future do not know everything. Most of the time they are lucky if they predict any trend correctly. Nobody can predict what is going to happen.

Their predictions are vague enough to have a better chance of happening. Forecasting is like fly-casting. It is really so very hard to cast the flies, and it is just as hard to forecast an economy’s future.

Kristen Campbell can be reached at kristen.campbell@laverne.edu.

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