When Ron Brown returned to school after 10 years in the workforce, he was looking for more than professional opportunities - he wanted a career that he could steer with his head and his heart.
Brown is now President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Bureau of Southern California. The organization serves more than 50,000 underprivileged children and families each year through abuse prevention services, foster care and adoption programs and advocacy.
He said he credits Cal State Long Beach’s Master of Business program, supportive instructors and even Disabled Student Services for giving him the tools to change course and pursue his calling.
Brown grew up in Long Beach, attended the city’s schools and even surfed the local waves. He said he developed a sense of responsibility for the local community, which made a career in education a natural choice.
He obtained teaching credentials at University of California, Santa Barbara, but full time teaching positions were in short supply. Brown returned to Long Beach and spent his next few years as an elementary school tutor and lifeguard.
Never discouraged, Brown became more committed to serving young children. “My plan was to teach them in the school year and save them in summer,” he joked.
Brown found rewarding opportunities in healthcare development, but eventually thought he could do more good on the business side of healthcare.
“I started looking around, and I found that the (MBA) program at CSULB had a really good reputation, better than some of the larger private universities in California,” he said. “It catered to working students, and I was working full-time, so it was perfect for my needs.”
During his time on campus, Brown said he took advantage of more the campus’ services than he could have anticipated. A car accident left him in a wheelchair for two months in his first semester, and he came to rely on the help of Disabled Student Services to navigate campus.
“I had surgeries on both my legs, and I was in a cast from my thighs to my toes,” he said. “It was a growing experience, but it made the semester a challenge, and their help was just absolutely everything that made it work. They offered preferential parking, keys to the elevators, and even direct assistance if needed. It was fantastic.”
Brown said he found just as much support from his cohort and instructors. “Dr. David Abramis was a terrific instructor,” Brown added. “He had a large impact by just being encouraging and trying to help me frame who I wanted to be as a leader.”
Soon after graduating, Brown moved from healthcare management to child welfare. He joined the Children’s Bureau as Chief Programs Officer in 2000. Under his purview, the agency has grown from a budget of $11 million to $50 million and now serves children and families at 21 sites throughout Los Angeles and Orange County.
Looking back, Brown said he encourages business students and alumni to find a place that allows them to use “their head and their heart.”
“The work is difficult,” he said. “So make sure you’re going to combine those two (logic and passion), because that allows you to persevere.”
Brown said his greatest achievements are proof that a business education can be applied to a broad spectrum of career goals.
“When I walk in our building and see a dad sitting on the ground with his kids on both sides, reading to them, it’s a proud moment,” he said. “Matching a child who has been in foster care for five years with somebody who wants to love them for the rest of their life, that’s a proud moment. I help to create a framework for the staff to be successful and to be great at what they do, and so I just keep working on that.”
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