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Facing Challenges Head-on

Irene Lange Has Advanced Marketing Education for More Than 40 Years

March 23, 2010

By Pamela McLaren

Next month, Irene Lange, chair and professor of marketing, will be honored with a Lifetime Contribution Award by the Marketing Educators Association. Photo by Karen Tapia

When Irene Lange launched her career at Cal State Fullerton, women were seen as the sales clerks — good enough to pitch products in a store but not allowed to help determine how to market the merchandise across the nation.

But, Lange ignored those limitations.

The Lithuanian native spent eight of the first 12 years of her life in refugee camps before coming to the United States from Germany with her mother in 1951. After World War II, she never saw her father, who had served on the eastern front with Germany. He spent a decade in Soviet gulags, only to die six months after freedom.

Living in Chicago, Lange completed her early schooling, then earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in marketing and economics at the University of Illinois. To put herself through college, she received several scholarships and supplemented with work as a clerical assistant on campus. Her first goal was to work internationally but teaching became her passion.

Very few women were teaching marketing when she completed her studies and when she applied for her first teaching position, she was told she was too young AND a woman. “More than 90 percent of the schools where I interviewed responded that way,” she noted.

Achievements

  • Honorary doctorate, Kaunas University of Technology 1998
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Phi Kappa Phi, 1997
  • Marketing Educator of the Year, Western Marketing Educators Association, 1995
  • Honorary member, Phi Kappa Phi, 1995
  • Senior fellow, Academy of Marketing Science, 1991
  • Member of U.S. delegation to the Conference on Economic Cooperation in Europe, 1990
  • Life member, International Marketing Association
  • Vice president of publications and editor, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 1984-88
  • President, Marketing Educators Association, 1983-84
  • Executive manager, International Marketing Association of Orange County

Fortunately, her age and gender didn’t stop Donald S. Tull, chair of marketing at California State College at Fullerton, from offering her a position on campus after meeting her at an American Marketing Association conference. She joined the campus in 1965.

Lange has been making her mark ever since — on campus and off. She served a fellowship as a trade and economics analyst for eastern European countries with the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. She served two other fellowships with NASA, studying procurement practices during the Apollo project and the diffusion of solar energy for commercial purposes. She served more than 20 years as the executive director of the International Marketing Association and 35 years as chair of Cal State Fullerton’s Marketing Department.

“I have a passion for learning new concepts, methods and ideas, and then disseminating them,” she said, admitting to a love of travel, speaking foreign languages, “doing great things internationally” and lifelong learning.

“My first professional focus was not on teaching but, later, teaching satisfied me the most," she said.

Since 1993, in addition to serving as department chair and teaching, Lange has worked with Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania. “Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for more than 50 years and here was an opportunity for me to work with faculty who wanted to establish the first school of administration and business.”

She served on the university's advisory board to establish the business school and helped develop an international agreement of student and faculty exchanges between Kaunas and Cal State Fullerton. In 1998, Lange became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Kaunas University. In June, the Lithuania institution will name a hall in her honor.

“Irene knows everyone,” said Neil Granitz, professor of marketing. “A large number of marketing faculty from business schools across the country know and admire Irene based upon her consistently strong contributions to the field of marketing.”

“Irene has provided support, mentoring and friendship over the years,” said S. Irene Matz, associate dean of the College of Communications, who has taught business writing in Mihaylo College. “She taught me a lot over the years — how to encourage faculty to be active in various events on campus and how to demonstrate that loyalty to faculty and staff.”

Lange’s dedication to her field and to education is evidenced by the accomplishments she has made during 45 years of service at Cal State Fullerton, as well as her professional involvement with several organizations, including Western Marketing Educators, Academy of International Business and Phi Kappa Phi.

In April, this dedication will be recognized by the Marketing Educators Association, which is presenting Lange with a Lifetime Contribution Award for long-term service and support, not only to the organization but to its mission: advancing marketing education and scholarship nationwide.

Q. What drove you into a career in academia?

I feel very strongly that the war and its outcomes affected me and I attribute many of my pursuits to the same effects I felt throughout my life. Higher education for me was my mother’s dream, which turned into a passion for me.

Q. You have served as department chair since 1975 — what have been the major changes in the program during your tenure?

I am very excited in seeing students apply what they learn as they pursue their careers and because of that, I have also been establishing and encouraging the use of internships, live case studies and speakers. To demonstrate to students how the strategies they learn in marketing apply to non-profit organizations and service-learning projects has always been on top of my list.

From the faculty and my own experiences, I follow the new trends that may have a role in our curriculum, such as measures of marketing productivity, assessments of learning, social media, sustainability, social responsibility and so on.

One of our faculty members, Mary Joyce — who passed away a few years ago — convinced me on the role of sustainability in marketing education and its many aspects. Her passion for this area did not become part of our curriculum in time for her to see that her prediction were to become so important.

I also had a great desire to see the formation of a sales center and that recently came to pass. Now, we have a designated space with a focus on sales preparation and careers.

My love for foreign languages led me to collaborate with faculty from the foreign language department and establish a B.A. in international business with a concentration in foreign language. We have probably more than 2,000 graduates, many of whom have pursued international careers. My background parallels these interests. I have many friends from other countries, some students came from diverse backgrounds and we have faculty who are truly international.

I have to say that having a great faculty makes the job very easy. Many of the other chairs envy me because we have professional and committed faculty. It is a team and they all pull for each other and support me.

Q. You’ve been involved in a number of international programs. Why are they important to you?

This is the area of the future — the global village. Students coming from diverse backgrounds can take advantage of their languages and culture, both in education and in their careers.

Something that has plagued me for a long time is that of “dissemination of marketing education internationally.” I have some answers about what it is but not a definitive one. When I taught in other countries I often would ask some of their distinguished marketing professors how they approached the issue. Their answer was that they taught everything the same everywhere.

I really had difficulties with that. For example, my Russian students would tell me that they could work with case studies if there was quantitative data. They found it easy but thought of cases as being games. The reason is that the context of the marketing case had little meaning in socialist countries. When asked by my Lithuanian students about the relevance of what they were learning, I decided to create a real situation on the spur of a moment. It was a live case on how to run a soup kitchen in the early years of their independence when Russia cut off all energy sources during a very harsh winter. The students learned the case method by actually doing it.

 

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