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Marianne Venieris Leads Center For International Trade And Transportation
September 25, 2012 - Marianne Venieris has a passion for educating the community on the importance and impact of the goods movement on Long Beach and the nation.
German-born Venieris came to the United States 35 years ago to stay with her Greek boyfriend, who had moved to the U.S., for a year. Observing how he was able to start his own business, Venieris decided to stay in the U.S. with him. Soon she realized her training in construction engineering in Germany was not as applicable to the job market in Los Angeles as it was back home. After struggling to find a job and to stay in the U.S., Venieris decided to go back to school and get a student visa. Not long after she married her boyfriend and started a family.
Venieris attended California State University, Long Beach and earned a bachelor's degree in marketing in 1990, and returned to earn a master's degree in business administration (MBA) in 1992. Due to a difficult job market, Venieris became a lecturer in the university's college of business administration. This was the beginning of her journey toward becoming a crucial link between CSULB, the community and the goods movement industry.
Today, as executive director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT), Venieris networks with key executives in the goods movement industry – from trucking to rail, logistics to warehousing and more. The center is a business arm of California State University, Long Beach's College of Continuing and Professional Education, providing professional development training that improves accessibility, responsiveness and knowledge of the industry and its various challenges.
In the following interview with the Business Journal, Venieris discusses the programs offered through CITT, the level of impact trade and transportation has on the Long Beach community and where Long Beach might be without a port.
LBBJ: Tell us how the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) at CSULB was formed.
Venieris: The center was originally founded as the CSULB College of Business Administration's Center for Transportation Studies in 1977. We rebranded it in 1998 and it was assigned to the university's college of continuing and professional education. This college, one of eight at CSULB, is self-governing.
LBBJ: When did you get involved with CITT?
Venieris: As a recent MBA graduate of CSULB, I had a tough time finding a job. I was fortunate enough to get work as a lecturer for the college of business administration (CBA). I had to cut the job short to only three semesters because the father of my sons had changed his work situation at the time, and I needed health insurance. While teaching at the university I met Mary Barton, who was working for what was then called the college of extension services at the satellite office at One World Trade Center. Barton established that satellite office in the early 1990s. When her associate director left, Mary asked me if I would apply as an emergency hire for the position. I was hired in 1993 as interim associate director by the college of extension services and worked with Mary for two years on university outreach. We helped businesses with training needs and put together programs.
In 1995, Barton took another position on campus. While still working at One World Trade Center, I attended several association meetings to make connections with people in the industry. At one particular International Business Association (IBA) meeting, a man named Richard Hollingsworth, who worked in trucking and warehousing, was complaining about the "lack of professionalism" in the goods movement industry. I offered to put together a customer service seminar for him, and he said, "If you ask me, anything is helpful. But let me bring in a few other people and we can look at the issue."
A group of industry representatives, including Hollingsworth and myself, met throughout 1996 to put together the global logistics specialist (GLS) program. It was a fascinating experience. What I learned is the complexity of the industry. We brought enough people together to help us out, and we realized that if the idea is to professionalize the industry, it is not only a trucking terminal gate, it is everybody. When you talk about the supply chain, any weak link makes it an inefficient system. In 1996, I became the director of trade and transportation programs, and by January 1997 we had the inaugural GLS class. After the GLS was implemented, industry representatives began asking for a center. That is when we rebranded the center and I was hired on as executive director.
LBBJ: How would you describe the role of the center in the community?
Venieris: Our role is to serve as a neutral forum where all the parties could come together. The other function is to act as a catalyst for growth and competitiveness. That is, in essence, supporting the building of the workforce for the future.
LBBJ: What other professional designation programs does CITT offer?
Venieris: The GLS program is a foundation that touches on each of the many entities and functions that are involved in moving international freight. Out of the GLS program came the marine terminal operations program, which is also a professional designation. That covers everything that goes on down at those terminals. The instructors and advisory board are representatives of the marine terminal operations down at the Port of Long Beach and the Port of L.A. The demonstration of the interest from the community gave us an opportunity to offer a master's program in global logistics on a [five-year] pilot level. That has been established, and we just completed the 10th cohort. We are responsible for the administrative component. We work together in partnership with the department of economics.
LBBJ: Would you say that these programs are for trade and transportation employees, to help themselves move up the ladder, so to speak?
Venieris: Yes. In Germany, we have a very sophisticated apprenticeship program. In fact, when I was done with school, I became an apprentice as a mechanical draftsperson. From there, I moved on. Here, you don't have such a system. In the U.S., there is no alternative to university. Back then, just 15 years ago, you didn't need a degree to be successful. You did what America is about – you show that you can do it, and you do it. But many in the industry have that love-hate relationship with the university, saying, "There's nothing they can teach us, but it would be nice to be certified for what we know." So when we teach, it is not only the skills. It is the understanding of the whole picture and a peripheral picture as well.
LBBJ: Are CITT classes taught by industry representatives?
Venieris: Yes. That is the secret to the success of my programs. We work with industry people very closely. We form these partnerships to make sure that we address the needs of the local industry. Let me explain that Cal State Long Beach is one of 23 campuses. The university organizes into eight colleges, and the college of continuing and professional education is the college in which CITT belongs. To be able to operate in this environment gives us – the employees in this college – the opportunity to be flexible and respond very quickly to needs in the community.
LBBJ: What are some of the new technologies in the trade and transportation workforce that you are working into the CITT programs?
Venieris: They are technologies that relate to the learning. Online learning is incredibly valuable. This is not only for the younger generation, which is very comfortable with online learning, but, also, we as a college want to emphasize accessibility. We make sure that students in China, or students who are in the San Fernando Valley who cannot get to class all the time, have access to learning. There are amazing online technologies where you have a great interaction with the instructor. We have a real-time office hour, so students can interact in real time with the individual, and that's the only real time we have. But that is invaluable.
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