Janis Dietz is a professor of business administration at the University of La Verne. She also is involved in philanthropic organizations, including the Pomona Valley Workshop, which helps place disabled people in jobs and schools. In her office in the Landis Academic Center, she had some time to sit down and offer her thoughts on cheating, graduating and security.
What is your take on the financial crisis?
I think it was a lack of control and there’s no excuse for two things; there’s no excuse for it getting as bad as it got because of lack of control, by both the federal government and by private industries. It also speaks to the lack of ethics. And I’m very saddened because I am a teacher and spent 25 years in the corporate industry. I am very very saddened to see people in my age bracket cheating like they do.
What do you think specifically caused the crisis?
Greed. And the inability to realize that what goes up, must come down. The thought that success is unlimited and it never stops. Lots and Lots of history, and I talk about it all the time, is that once a market becomes saturated, there’s going to be lower demand, and that’s what happened.
What do you think of Obama’s plan, such as the bail-outs?
I think that he’s taking us toward socialism. We can’t afford to support everybody in the world, and I think that there’s again, a lack of accountability for people. Oh, you can’t get a job? We’ll give you money. And I think history proves that that is not a good way to go.
Do you have the same opinion with that on health care?
What do you think about the new loan program with education?
I think that’s probably a good thing. I think it’s a good thing because if the banks can’t, if we increase our Pell Grants and kids will be able to get more money, I’m happy about that part. So if in truth the government can do a better job about it, then fine.
How do you think that we can get ourselves out of this financial crisis?
Well, I don’t know, I teach marketing, I think we are coming out of it, slowly but surely, I think the American people are the most resilient on the face of the Earth, the most generous on the face of the Earth, so we are getting out of it, just the way we’ve gotten out of everything else. Picking ourselves up by our bootstraps and getting back to work.
Do you think that because of the crisis that marketing and business is going to have to change?
I think the world of marketing and business has to change anyway. Every single day. So that there’s a new opportunity. 8 of the top 10 jobs for 2012 did not exist in 2004. And so our students will have 17 jobs in their lifetime. They will have had several of them, say 10 by the time they are 37. So that the world changes all the time and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about today, you’re talking about 10 years ago or 15 years ago, you have to, especially if you’re teaching marketing or business, read the Wall Street Journal, and think, OK, what’s different? And be prepared to react to opportunities in the external environment.
How do you think that the Internet has changed marketing?
It’s changed everything. It’s changed everything. It’s changed the way you go after customers. You can’t use the old standard ABC, NBC, CBS, you have to look at, how are these people getting their news. Are they getting their news on their iPhone? iPad? Are they getting it on their earbuds, or whatever they’re doing there. How are they getting their news, and what are they interested in. Are they Tweeting? Are they going to Web sites? So there’s a lot of marketing research being done to figure how much time is being spent in each of these medias. And the marketing companies have to, say if you have a hundred million dollars, General Motors spends about 3 and a half billion dollars on marketing. OK. Where do you put that money? You put it on special events, or you put it on TV, put it on the Internet, and big companies like Proctor and Gamble have changed a lot of the way they market because of the Internet because of how you reach people. That’s a long answer to that question.
What would you say to teachers that have been teaching for a long time, and haven’t really modified their skills?
I think you’re nuts not to modify your skills. I don’t care whether you are teaching or make widgets, you have to constantly change your skills. And teaching, yeah, because most of us grew up without computers, if you’re from my age bracket. I go to everything I can to help me be a better teacher. I have to understand how my students—because my students are my customers and so I have to understand how they are learning. I would say you cannot afford to do that.
What do you think is your biggest accomplishment in your career?
I think the academic teaching award that I won in 2007 up here, it was very important to me in a sense that I’m seen as a good teacher. That’s important to me. Many, many letters from my students telling me how much I helped them, that’s important.
What do you think was your biggest struggle?
Probably to motivate students who don’t really care about their classes.
How do you do that?
You can’t motivate people. They have to motivate themselves. And you know yourself from your own classes. If you like it, and your interested in it, you’ll work on it. So I have to work very hard to say something that interests them. That’s the biggest frustration, for all of us.
What advice would you give to students, let’s say, if they are graduating, and going into the real world?
My latest book, “The 3 Simple Secrets of Success After the Diploma” says give your employer more than they are paying for. Remember your brand, you are a brand. And people are buying the brand that you are. Wherever you go, you live that brand. If you Tweet something, or you put something on your Myspace page that’s not very attractive, in terms of your reputation, then it’s not going to be good for you. So I tell my students to spend less than you can afford, give your employer more than they’re paying for, and protect your brand.
What’s the worst job that you’ve ever had?
I think as a secretary. My first job out of college. I graduated with honors in 1971 and I couldn’t find a job. My degree was in English. So I found a job as a secretary. I hated every single minute of it. But you always learn something. And I think that that was the best advice I got was from my supervisor. That you always learn something. No matter what job it is. I should have had a better attitude.
How do you think that being a motivational speaker has changed your perspective on life?
Well I think that being a motivational speaker came out of my perspective on life. My first book was called “Physical Adversity and Living Your Life to the Fullest.” As someone with a physical handicap, I feel like you have a choice. You have a choice. You can either say, I can’t do this, I can retire, or I changed careers because of my illness. And I had to go back and get a p.h.D in order to change careers. I think you sort of say, I can complain about what happened to me, or I can go out and do something about it. So that’s kind of my message and my motivational speaking comes out of that. Not the other way around.
What is your opinion on the Campus Times?
I like the Campus Times.
How often do you read it?
Oh yeah. I have complaints about the attitude of some of the people that work for the Times, but you know, it’s not my paper. It’s your paper. I enjoy reading it.
What are you plans for the future?
Gee, I haven’t though about the future. Well my husband is just retiring, he was told he either moves to Houston or he retires, so he’s retiring. I’m going to work for a couple more years, you know, mostly do volunteer work. I do a lot of volunteer work, I sit on two non-profit boards. I volunteer for a company that hires developed mentally disabled adults. It’s very important to me, and so I’ll probably increase my involvement with other charities.
Do you think the government can do anything else to help disabled people?
I think the government is doing a lot. There are a lot of programs out there. I have a down syndrome nephew. He’s now 23. The thing is, we spend a lot of money on entitlements, entitlements that maybe are wasting money. There’s a huge amount of Medicare fraud. If Obama can reign in that Medicare fraud, then I think we would have more money to work with.
What do you think is the biggest issue that we need to deal with in the government?
Security. There are a lot of countries that want to kill us. And I think that that’s a real scare, of how we work very hard to prevent another 9/11. It’s the thought that they could do that again.
How do you feel about the body scan at the airports?
Fine, I don’t care. I am willing to give up all of my privacy to the United States of America if they’ll keep me safe. Absolutely. And sometimes, there are things that I have written to the Campus Times to that effect. Everybody’s worried about their privacy. I don’t worry about my privacy. I worry about keeping myself safe from bombs.
What is your opinion on the Tea Party?
My husband goes to all those things. I’m not a political activist. I think that this health care thing was shoved down our throats, but it’s our government, Obama is our president, and we’ll just have to work with it. I mean, I can only control so much. I can only control what I do in the classroom, how I respond to my customers, and not worry about what I can’t control.
What is your philosophy on teaching?
My philosophy is that my students are my children. We don’t have any children. And they are my children, and everything I do has to be for their benefit. Not for the university’s benefit, but for the student’s benefit. Sometimes, they don’t like my prescription, you know, students are the only customers who don’t want their money’s worth. You know what I mean? And that’s frustrating to me. They don’t want all the stuff I know is good for them. My philosophy is that everything I do has to be giving them what I think they need, not so much what they want, but I have to do my best for them every day. And in terms of trying to improve my teaching, keeping up with what’s going on in the world now-a-days.
How has your upbringing shaped your values?
I had the greatest upbringing in the world. It made me an ethical person. And I guess I should have said, when you asked a question about ethics, I am meeting with Noor Wahba, head of the ASULV, because I’m presenting an honor code to the university. I am really upset about the lack of ethics, the lack of honor on any campus, anywhere. And I’d love to see us take an honor code. So I worry about what makes kids ethical. It starts at the dinner table. That’s how I became ethical. I thank my lucky stars on my heritage from my parents.
What is included in your honor code?
Just that we strive to be honest, to not cheat, and the students would have to have an honor council. Students need to get involved. If they don’t want to do this, it wont do us any good. I already presented it to faculty senate, and today I am meeting with ASULV. The code includes an agreement not to cheat, not to plagiarize, and to turn in people who do, and then an honor council where you’d go up if you were accused. But I have examples in this file of about 5 other schools who have honor codes that I’m presenting to the council.
What inspired this?
I thought to myself, what makes people ethical? I’ve been dealing with this all my life. And then I thought, OK, let’s think about social capital. Social capital is what you have when you’re educated. So, some people don’t have social capital. Like Colin Powell, who was brought up with nothing. Are you ethical because you have social capital? If you don’t have social capital, does that mean you’re not ethical? So I looked at four quadrants. People with social capital who are ethical. People like Bernie Madoff, who had social capital but wasn’t ethical. People who do not have social capital, but are ethical. And those who do not have social capital but are ethical. I was looking at that, and then I realized it was, well I get myself in trouble. I’m not really good at getting things published. I can’t write like an academic. I got my doctorate age 47, and so I can’t really do that. So I started to look, and I got some articles about how an honor code lessens cheating. So I got involved in it with what interested me, which was an honor and ethical code.
Why do you think students cheat?
I think that the further away you are from the consequences of cheating, the easier it is to cheat. I think that latchkey, the fact that their parents all worked has something to do with the fact that there’s nobody around, it’s just the way you do things. It’s never worth it. I spent 25 years in sales, and you could cheat on your expense report, and it would ruin your career. It never raises your standards of living. As a salesman, my integrity is the most important thing I have. There is nothing more important than being honest with my customer. Last week we had Spotlight Weekend, and one of the professors told me, you know, our job is to sell you on La Verne. Well that’s not our job. Our job is to meet the customers needs. Whether the customer’s need is La Verne, or Redlands, or Azusa Pacific, it doesn’t matter. To me, what matters is, what does this person want? Some make their decision on how they feel about the campus and the way that they’re treated, and that’s why we get people at La Verne, because of the way we treat them. It’s not my job to sell them La Verne, it’s my job to meet whatever needs they have.
Carly Hill can be reached at email@example.com.