Enroll Now

Westcliff’s Core Values | Stories With Traction Podcast

The Story of Westcliff
Leader of Leaders


SUMMARY: In this episode, Dr. Anthony Lee and Matt Zaun talk about Westcliff’s core values and the future of education regarding AI technology.

DR. ANTHONY LEE BIO: Dr. Lee is the President and CEO of Westcliff University and has led the institution through incredible growth for the last 16 years. Under his leadership, each of Westcliff’s colleges has experienced commendable progress as they continue to welcome some of their strongest and largest incoming classes.

As a distinguished leader with a demonstrated history of excellence, Dr. Lee is playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of higher education. His visionary outlook has been significantly influenced by his outstanding educational background: He holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership specializing in higher education administration from the prestigious University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. Additionally, he possesses a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, where he focused on strategy and entrepreneurship. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of California, Irvine.

Dr. Lee is in high demand as a speaker at conferences and seminars across the nation and is a two-time nominee for the esteemed Orange County Business Journal Innovator of the Year award.

His leadership has made a profound impact on students and faculty around the world, solidifying Westcliff’s status as a global higher education leader. His unwavering commitment to fostering equitable access to education for all exemplifies his philanthropic spirit and deep dedication to community engagement.

For more info on Dr. Lee:


MATT ZAUN BIO: Matt is an award-winning speaker and storyteller who empowers organizations to attract more clients through the art of strategic storytelling. Matt’s past engagements have catalyzed radical sales increases for over 300 organizations that range from financial institutions to the health and wellness industry.

Matt shares his expertise in persuasion with executives, sales professionals, and entrepreneurs, who he coaches on the art of influence and how to leverage this for profits and impact.

For more info, check out Matt Zaun HERE


*Below is an AI-generated transcript, which may contain errors



Matt Zaun

In January and episode called the story of Westcliff launched where I discuss with my guest how we took a school from 30 students to 6,000 plus today.

In February we launched an episode called Leader of Leaders where we talked about how to pick and develop the right people.

Today we'll be completing this series and we're going to talk about core values and the future of education as it relates to AI technology.

I'm joined again by Dr. Anthony Lee who is the president and CEO of Westcliff University. Welcome back Dr.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Lee. Thanks for having me again Matt, appreciate it.


Matt Zaun 

And I appreciate you sharing your journey and the leadership with us in the first episode and then talking about how to bring people along on that journey and developing leaders.

I really appreciate all the insights that you shared and one of the things that I learned from you as a leader working with you and spending the last few months having conversations.

is that you not only have core values, but you actually live out those core values in a big, big way.

I think often there are organizations that view it as they check the box, or let's plaster them on a wall, but they're still distant from them.

And I know toward the end of our last conversation, you were talking about not only bringing on leaders, but creating a vibrant culture for them.

And that culture's back by clearly identified core values that are being lived out. And one of the ones we started to discuss was the value of being a great global citizen.

So I wanna dive right in with that value. And I wanna talk about it from two different angles. One being, how did your father inspire you to fully embrace this value?

And in addition, how does exposing students to events like international food and culture day prepare them to be great global citizens?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

I think my father, who is an immigrant, and came to the US with absolutely pretty much nothing, really inspired me to really understand his origin, his background, and what really drives him.

He came from Vietnam with, you know, in terms of being a global citizen, you know, that's always been his, his, what's inspired him throughout his life.

He came to the US and started to an educational institution that really serves international students from around the world, right?

And I've been fortunate enough to follow in his footsteps and really to really to take that on from West Cliff University and the impact that we have been able to make as a university to over students from over 100 countries from around the world is so impact.

Well, that means so much to me.


Matt Zaun 

So I and I appreciate you taking that and then living it out even more and I've seen in the past, you having certain events that really just exemplify different elements of culture.

So how does having students go through these events like a food and culture day or an international food and culture day?

does that prepare them to be a great global citizen?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Well, I think with the world around us, you know, there's so much value in understanding people's cultures, experiences, their heritage, their perspectives, and you really are able to achieve that when you bring everyone together to celebrate where they're from, celebrate their cuisine, their food, celebrate their cultures.

We actually had a lot of students perform their dances from their country, right? was their cultural dances and it was fun.

was exciting. Everyone got to enjoy that and bringing people together. I think is the key. Once you have that very collaborative and sincere sort of relationship with each other, it really translates into the classroom and translates into the workplace.

Those type of relationships, those relationships will help you open up, help you work better together, help you work more collaboratively together.

Also, I think there's a sense of being inquisitive and asking and being curious about what others are thinking, what their perspectives are on a certain topic or issue.

those type of, you know, bringing those type of perspectives together is how you can really make it valuable and come up with creative solutions.


Matt Zaun 

That's awesome. And I appreciate you mentioning that. And I see that. I'm seeing all these different messages from your university, your organization, how all that.

it's just really, really good to see in real life. And I appreciate that. One of the things that we have talked about in the past, I believe it's been a couple months now, but you were talking to me about the importance of compassion, having compassion, front and center in an organization.

And one of your staff members mentioned something to me a couple weeks ago that I want to highlight so one of your staff members told me how much they appreciate it you having office hours you setting time aside to meet with team members to collaborate to hear from them.

And I was just wondering, how does that tie into a core value like compassion?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Well, in terms of the office hours, I mean, at the end of the day, I want to make sure that I'm available for everybody that's a part of West Coast University.

I do that once a month on a Friday, and you know, it's been incredible. know, I get to meet so many different people.

As we are growing much larger and larger, I don't get to meet everybody anymore. I used to hire everybody as part of the university, part of the hiring process, part of so many things.

but being able to hear from them, you know, what they're going through hearing from the students that they're serving, right?

All the things that they're proud of in working with the students, supporting the students, and all the things that are challenges for them, right?

They're able to voice these things to me and that can do what I can to help support them better.

And I think it helps. Sometimes compassion is just about listening, just about hearing what might be going bad for an employee that day or something that they're hoping that can happen in the future.

And if I can shed light on some of those things or I can help support them on some of those things, it's going to make them much happier, more more content and just really a lot more excited to help support our students.


Matt Zaun 

So I want to talk about the sacrifice for a second because I think it's one thing to say something and then another thing for a leader to actually implement it.

Like, clearly, there is sacrifice on your part on blocking time off to do that. mean, there's a million other things you probably could be doing.

But it's really good to see how you still make time to do that. So talk about that. Talk about the potential rewards, so to speak.

Some of the maybe some of the growth that you seem to take place. Some of the ROI, so to speak, that's come from that.

But talk also about the sacrifice piece and what it means to block time aside in your calendar to open up your office doors.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Yeah, I mean, I think sometimes we are just running so fast across the organization that you need to take a step back and see how people are doing.

And I try to do this and try to be lead by example, right? And for my managers that are reporting to me, that they're able to cascade it, that type of leadership style down all the way to every staff in the organization.

When you are able to show compassion and show that type of generosity with your time, it just makes people feel so much better, right?

I think. ROI is really just about, again, people are stressed out, you know, they need somebody to talk to, they just need somebody to listen and that on its own is going to help and at the same time, once you do that, you're going to uncover some nuggets, right?

There's going to be, if I get one or two nuggets out of a conversation, I'm ecstatic, right? We can do something with that.

That's just going to improve the overall health of our staff and faculty over the overall health of the institution.

It's going to make it worthwhile and there's going to be a huge ROI in that sense.


Matt Zaun 

Let's talk about the stress piece because you mentioned people are stressed out and often stress can lead people to potential infighting, potentially negative consequences.

I want to talk about how would you encourage a leader that's listening to this episode create a culture of collaboration?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Okay, so if you are the leader, you should be the last person to speak in a meeting. You want to make sure that you are

Listening to everybody's voice and for those that are not speaking up You have to be a facilitator, right? have to reach out ask for opinions and then at the end of the day There might be sometimes when some of the staff members and team members are just uncomfortable speaking a large group If you see that what I do is after the meeting I'll pull them aside and say hey, what did you think about that?

heard you I didn't really hear you by really want to know what you thought And today's day and age I do this a lot too is I actually you know We use Google suite for for our organization.

I'll start chatting people right and I'll just chat people on the side like no Hey, how are you doing?

Like what did you think about that? What are you thinking about this meeting, right? And then if there's root meetings on zoom, there's a huge chat feature, right?

Not everyone's gonna read raise their hand. Some people are just gonna chat in there as well So I think it's seeking out input intentionally being curious really wanting to understand What others or how others are feeling?

And what other point I'll make with collaboration is that? As an organization that going through a lot of change in growth, we are also implementing a lot of change, a lot of new procedures and processes.

And I've always been the type to say, hey, how does this affect department A, B, department C, let's reach out to those departments before we roll anything out, let's ask them to get their input.

Is it going to affect them? they have any things that might improve what we're trying to roll out? And you have to be intentional in those ways, because you never know, right?

There's always going to be blind spots, there's always be some unintended consequence that you don't know about, and it's better to try to seek that out beforehand than to deal with some of the backlash that might have it afterwards, if you know what I mean.

But we don't have it perfect, we're still trying our best and we just have to continue to involve as many voices as possible.


Matt Zaun

I love that. If you're a leader, you should be the last person to speak in a room. I really appreciate you.

You mentioned that that is incredible and that's there's a lot of wisdom in that, you know, you had mentioned change in growth and Lightning speed that that I've seen With a lot of different things that you're doing and one of the things that you haven't lost sight of that I think it's really important to zone in on and talk about because I there's a lot of leaders out there that are thinking about this or they've Talked about this but they haven't really done anything about this and I want you to speak to this Is as fast as you're growing you still find time to focus on social responsibility I think that's really important.

I know it was an organization you've set aside time You've implemented strategy and not only being great global citizens, but also being great neighbors In the community.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

So can you spend time talking about that on some of the things you've done why you're so passionate about that And just some ideas that listeners might be able to implement themselves Yeah, again, I mean it goes back to how much work

people put into the organization, into the workplace, and it can get tiring, it can get exhausting. And I really feel strongly that giving back to the community will refill your tank, right?

When you are out there helping others and doing that in partnership with your peers, your coworkers, it's a great feeling.

It's great. You're helping people. You're doing so many good things for humanity and for your community. I still remember when I first went to, so this was quite some time ago, I went back to Vietnam, and I visited the orphanages.

And at that point, we were giving out rice, slippers, donating to all these less unfortunate children, many of elemental disabilities.

It was powerful. mean, going out there and seeing who's less fortunate than you, and there are so many of them in poverty, that really made a lasting impact on me.

really ensuring that I don't take anything for granted and as a leader of West Cliff University I think it's important that we make sure that none of us here are taking anything for granted and that it's our duty to Give back to the community How does that help with a culture piece?


Matt Zaun 

So clearly people are coming together. They might be spending time serving in the community What do you what does a leader need to be aware of when it comes to?

Maybe a budget with that or allowing team members to have time to partake in that What are some thoughts that leaders should be thinking of before trying to do something like this?

Implementing a social responsibility piece to their organization.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

I Think you need to be absolutely intentional You need to be able to communicate that across the board and what we have done is we've set aside a Full day of work that can go towards community outreach any social responsibility initiative that you want to partake in

you can take one full day a year to do that. At the same time, we've set aside a budget to ensure that we can really donate to the different types of organizations that we want to support across the university.

We also have a process in place for our staff. If there's a specific nonprofit organization that you want to support, you can apply and get donations towards what you feel is most important to you in terms of impacting the community.


Matt Zaun 

That sounds awesome. think a lot of people are talking about it but they're not seeing it in action and I think that you've offered a great example of different things to do.

So one of the things I do want to zone in on and I want to talk about is, was there collaboration on what organizations to support as maybe a leadership team?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

How did those conversations start? Yeah, mean, it started with the leadership team talking about what different organizations that we can support.

We've then put in place a social support. possibility committee. So now we're getting together and talking about and looking at what organizations do we want to highlight most for this upcoming year.

So we have to make sure that we have these committees in place to really have a sense of checks and balance with the type of organizations that we want to support because there's just so many, there's just so many, right?


Matt Zaun 

For sure. Absolutely. And I appreciate you making that. think intentionality is absolutely paramount to the success of something like this.

I appreciate you mentioning the intentionality piece. I want to shift gears. want to talk about two things that have come up in our conversations in the last few months, you and I talking together.

You mentioned integrity and accountability. And I want to talk about two different things that you have going on as an organization that I think speak to both of those values.

So you mentioned to me about a nursing school and then you also mentioned to me about a preschool. So one of the things that you mentioned regarding nursing is using a need, especially

across the United States where there is a nursing shortage. There's a lot of situations where people are in and because they can't get the care they need, there's horrifying circumstances that are happening because of that.

So as an organization, you see a need, you say we're gonna do something about it, we're actually gonna live out our value of being accountable to the community, only locally but nationally in this case as well, potentially even globally, and we're gonna do something about it.

And then the same thing is true with the preschool. So can you take us through just your ideas regarding expanding into those realms and how that helps you live out those two core values as well?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Yeah, I I think most importantly is we are here to serve students and we wanna provide students with careers, I'm sorry, we want to provide students with degrees that lead to promising careers.

Nursing isn't high demand, there's a huge shortage. and at West Coast University can do something about it, I think we should and that's why we have gone with all of our support and resources into nursing.

We've fortunately got the Board of Nursing approval last year. We're hoping to launch our College of Nursing this year by the end of the year and it's exciting.

mean, we are going to be able to make such an impact on our community and fulfill the nursing shortages in our community in Southern California and then the students are going to have careers that are going to help them with their that's really going to change their lives, right?

They're really trying to make careers for our students that we want to serve them and it means a lot to us.


Matt Zaun

But take me through the sacrifice on this and so clearly there's a sacrifice with setting aside elements of your budget regarding this, filling more roles to take on this.

There could be potential headaches and setting up even the preschool that you have. So how do you stick to the mission, even with adversity, even with some of these stressors that come your way.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, you have to be accountable to yourself in the community, and that's how we that's how we view it.

For us to have integrity as an institution, we have to continue to expand into areas where we feel there's a need, right?

Absolutely, there's so much uncertainty when we pursued these initiatives. A lot of resources were put into play to make sure that we're able to get to where we are today, a lot of hours, lot of money, a lot of uncertainty as well.

But we had to just keep pushing on, because I really believe that we're here to serve our students and serve our communities, so we're able to do that.

In terms of, in terms of the preschool, that is something that's very personal to me. I have two little ones, and I've

You know, I worked with, I've been involved in education and I believe that I can provide and help provide a very strong educational environment for my children and it starts in early childhood.

It starts as early as when they were one or two and I've seen that. With my first daughter, she was only two years old when she went to preschool and the advance in development I saw after only a few months was phenomenal, right?

So, when I saw that kind of an impact, I was like, WestClip University needs to do something about it.

So, we're going to start the WestClip University, sorry, WestClip University needs to do something about it. We're going to start the WestClip Early Learning Academy later on this year and I'm very excited about that.

Not only is it there to serve me personally, more importantly is there to serve the community. There's a shortage of early childhood centers across the U.S.

and in Orange County and across our communities and at the same time, we're going to be able to serve the students of Westcliff University, those that are young parents, the staff and faculty that are starting to have little ones as well.

I've already talked to some of them and they're excited for us to be able to have that. And we're going to be putting that on, we're going to be offering that as an employee benefit as well for our staff and faculty.

And of course, you know, really try to help our students at the same time.


Matt Zaun 

One of most amazing things, something that really excites me is when I see a leader, see a problem, and then come up with an incredible solution for that problem.

So it's incredible to see you step up and say, hey, there's a nursing shortage, we need to do something about it.

There is a shortage in early childhood education, we need to do something about it. So that is just incredible to see.

It gets me excited, just knowing all the lives that are going to be effective positively because of that. So thank you for sharing that.

I want to touch on three different pieces that we touched on. The very first episode, the very first episode that was really synopsis of your journey into leading West Clif.

You had mentioned three specific things. You had mentioned leadership, and then once you get all those leadership abilities and you're growing as a leader, then you focus on scaling.

So you're scaling the organization, bringing people in, molding them, helping them become leaders, and then focusing on innovation. So I want to talk about the innovation piece, because you have all this stuff going on regarding core values, building that vibrant culture, and now there's a huge innovation piece that is staring at us, which is AI technology.

So a lot of organizations have thought of this. They're starting to implement things in order to potentially even combat this or embrace this or however people want to view it.

So I wanted to get your perspective on this regarding AI. So just in this year alone, so not thinking years from now,

Just this year, what are your thoughts regarding AI technology initially?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

I think we need to embrace it. I've said this over and over at our institution, with our academic leaders, our administrative leaders, the organization, we need to embrace it.

It's going to be here for a long time. And the faster that we embrace it, the sooner we're going to be able to compete above other organizations.

I think that there are ways that AI can help us in every aspect. It can help us in our courses, can help students learn better, can help faculty grade better, it can help our staff as well, right?

It can help our staff with marketing, with HR, with policies, procedures. There's so many things you can do with it, right?

But the key is to doing it the right way. So when it comes to students, we have to be able to train them how to utilize chat, sorry, we have to be able to train them, how to utilize AI in the right way.

And there's many ways to use And I think part of that's going to be building the right culture that's going to be embracing and accepting it, but also looking out, looking for ways to put guardrails in place, you know.

do we protect ourselves from plagiarism, from abuse of it? And there's ways to do it. You need to have an authentic learning experience for the students.

So the more in our approaches has been, the more live interaction you're able to have with the student, the more you're going be able to assess that student's learning ability.

At the same time, AI is going to help accelerate that greatly, right? And we're working on an app right now that's patent pending, that's going to be focused on how do we take all the content in the course and all the output that a student's providing and ensure that their learning outcomes are met.

And that's something that very excited that we're working on and hopefully we can get to fruition some later point this year.

But we're piloting it right now and it seems to be the way that we're assessing learning outcomes. And it seems to be working pretty well.


Matt Zaun 

So it's calming to hear your enthusiasm, because I think there's a lot of people that are very scared about this technology.

What would you say to someone listening to this that might be afraid of whether it's this year or the years to come, what would you say, is there a comparison that you can think of where maybe a few years ago something happened and a lot of people got afraid of it in early in education in general, and then now we've fully embraced it and it's a part of our society.

there anything that you can think of specifically that people might be able to point back to saying, look, we were scared about that and see how it worked out for us?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Sorry, I was waiting to say. I don't know if can tell, kind of tired today.


Matt Zaun

I'm trying to believe. Yeah, that's fine.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Okay. What was the answer?


Matt Zaun

So just so you know, this is the best interview we've had so far. The answers, the answers that you've given are phenomenal, they're incredible.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

There's a lot of material you're giving me. Okay, good. I thought it was the worst ones of one over the life.


Matt Zaun 

No, it's by far, it's awesome. So like I'm thinking maybe maybe it's a smartphone or an iPhone or a scientific calculator or maybe even Google in general with with students Googling, maybe it could be like applications, like a lot of students used to go into the library and actually do physical research with books and now you know in their PJs at home there's a ton of applications they could search on and get information to pull from so like anything that you can think of maybe in that regard where people are scared to death about iPhones being in the classroom and now you know we've clearly embraced it as a society.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Okay, Yeah, so I think I mean the cell phone is an example, right? mean there's so many things that you can do with a cell phone and think at first

teachers were very afraid of like what could happen on a cell phone, but I think it's a tool that we can use.

There's so many apps we can use. There's actually professors that are using apps in the classroom for students to like answer polling questions, right, to help with the learning of our best.

So I mean, there's a lot of things there that we can do to be afraid, but if you're embracing it, I think it's gonna be fine.

I think with with AI coming out, it's gonna be, you know, how do we utilize it as a tool?

And I think the sooner organizations are utilizing as a tool, and really look at what is the valuable human component and human side of it, then if they can figure that out, they're gonna be fine.


Matt Zaun 

So you had mentioned your two daughters earlier in our conversation, and I want to think about this from a parent perspective.

So if one of your daughters talks to you about it, like in the future, about a potential career that they have an aspiration for, or maybe maybe a certain degree that they're interested in pursuing.

If you know that AI is going to radically change that sector of the economy, how would you prepare someone, even in your own family, to view that?

Would you try to steer them away from going on a certain career path because of that, or would you try to figure out something else in that regard?

How would you go about handling that?


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

Yeah, I think it's hard to predict the future, for sure, and I think there's ways and trends you can look at to say, AI might take over part of this industry, but number one, it goes by daughter and she's passionate about it.

I want to figure out a way for her to go into that career because I want her to be passionate about the career path that she's taking.

I do think that in any industry, AI is going to have a bigger impact than others. But, again, if you look at how AI is going to impact that industry.

industry. And where is the human involvement that is needed to amplify that effect? That is the key, right? Where is that future position where we need this person to help us utilize this AI tool much better that an AI tool can never get to?


Matt Zaun 

I love that. Where is the human involvement needed to amplify that? That is that is spot on. I appreciate you mentioned that.

So we're talking family now. So let me bring up one of my sons who at times listens to these episodes.

I want you to speak to directly to him. And I'm sure I'm not the only parent that has heard this.

But he has mentioned to me that, oh, he doesn't need to learn that in school or focus on that because AI will take care of that in the future.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

What would you say to someone that's thinking in that regard? I'm going to say what happens when your own battery dies and you

to answer your question. What are you going to do? What are you going to do at that point? There's going to be a point when you can't depend on AI fully, you can't depend your phone fully.

It's interesting. So, like, directions is a very good example. People used to know directions, and now they just have to put in their corporate direction.

What really happens when your phone dies or you have no internet, you're going to be lost. So, that's a classic example of where you need to be able to build your own knowledge and continue to learn so you can't be overly dependent on some of these days.


Matt Zaun

So, I really appreciate that response because one of the things that I'm finding out more and more is we're going to need to actually be better storytellers because of AI technology.

Because I want you to think about what it's doing when it comes to writing, and then now when people are in a boardroom or they're presenting, whether it's in school, or in their profession, they need to still be able to really connect.

with people on a deep, meaningful level. And it's amazing. There are many things AI cannot replace, it can't replace compassion, it can't replace love, and it can't replace empathy.

So there is still a need for that human interaction, and based on what you said, the human involvement amplifying that.

So I really appreciate you mentioning that. So Dr. Lee, thank you so much for this conversation. Thank you for the series that you were willing to put together.

I think it really speaks to not only your leadership, but also the journey of building out the university, as well as focusing on key innovators.

And I really appreciate that. From this conversation specifically, there are three points that I'm going to take away. I really appreciate you mentioning if you're a leader, you should be the last person to speak in a room.

I think that really speaks to your wisdom and your leadership, especially when it comes to collaboration. A lot of leaders should be thinking about that.

I appreciate you mentioning. about not only talking about core values, but how you live them out. I think, you know, working with you for the last couple of months, it is clear that you not only talk about core values, but you actually share and you talk about them through story.

It really paints the scene for what the organization focuses on. I appreciate that. And the third and final piece that I appreciate you mentioning regarding AI, the enthusiasm you have, not the fear, but you said, where is the human involvement needed to amplify that technology?

I think that's a really good place and a great perspective when we're looking at this. So all in all, thank you.

I appreciate your time.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

appreciate all the insights that you've shared. If people want to get more information on WestCliff, they're interested in signing up for classes themselves, where can they go to get that information?

They definitely go to our website, westcliff.edu, and they can also go to my LinkedIn page if you have any questions as well.


Matt Zaun 

Perfect. I will include that in the show. It's people that just click and go from there, but thanks again.

I really appreciate your time Thank you so much, man.


Anthony Lee (Westcliff University)

I really appreciate it. I had a lot of fun

Want weekly updates...

to take your storytelling
to a whole new level?