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The History of Alliant International University

Alliant International University receives its name from the merger of three legacy institutions: San Francisco Law School founded in 1909, United States International University (USIU) founded in 1927, and California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) founded in 1969. In 2001, USIU and CSPP merged forming Alliant with San Francisco Law School joining in 2010. Through multiple name changes and campus relocations, one constant among the institutions has been a legacy of employing noteworthy faculty and graduating high achieving students. Together they have impacted the world in a profound way.

It all began in 1909 when the San Francisco Law School first opened its doors in the Bay area. SFLS was the first evening law program in the western United States and was among the first law schools to actively recruit women. SFLS continues to focus on students who may not have opportunities for traditional legal education. The Law School graduated former California Governor Edmund Pat Brown, former Lieutenant Governor Leo T. McCarthy, and former Undersecretary of the United States Department of Energy Joseph F. Salgado.

In 1927 Leland Ghent Stanford chartered a private graduate institution called Balboa Law College, the first law school in San Diego. Balboa Law College expanded to include undergraduate and graduate studies beginning with the Department of Accounting in 1945, changing its name to Balboa University. The law school was closed in 1946.

In 1952, Balboa University changed its name to California Western University and relocated to Point Loma, south of downtown San Diego. The law school reopened soon thereafter.

In 1968, the undergraduate and graduate programs moved to its current location in Scripps Ranch in northeast San Diego and changed its name to United States International University (USIU). The law school retained the California Western name and became independent in 1975.

During the 1970s, USIU became a center for humanistic psychology with a faculty that included Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Victor Frankl. H. Igor Ansoff, one of the founders of the field of strategic management, was also a long-time faculty member.

The California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) was founded in 1969 by the California Psychological Association, to train doctoral level psychologists that matched the diversity of California residents. CSPP was the first free-standing school of professional psychology in the nation. At the time, most clinical psychologists were trained in research universities. CSPP took an innovative approach of classroom learning integrated with application of knowledge in a variety of field placements departing from the prevalent focus on theory and research. Founding President, Dr. Nicholas Cummings was later president of the American Psychological Association. The first CSPP school opened in San Francisco, followed by Los Angeles. Later CSPP opened programs in San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, Irvine, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Mexico. As of 2016, CSPP had trained more than half of the licensed psychologists in California. At the turn of the millennium, CSPP renamed itself Alliant University when all CSPP campuses merged under one WASC accreditation.

In 2001, USIU and CSPP merged and renamed the institution Alliant International University.

In 2010, the San Francisco Law School merged with Alliant. In 2014 the San Diego Law School opened as a branch of the San Francisco Law School at Alliant San Diego campus.

In 2015, Alliant International University joined Arist Education System’s global network of universities dedicated to health and human sciences. As a result, Alliant transitioned to a benefit corporation structure that enables the university to attract capital investments to further enhance program offerings, technology, student services, and student outcomes while retaining a primary commitment to Alliant’s social benefit mission of education and professional training.  

2015 also saw the creation of the Alliant Educational Foundation, an independent, non-profit organization that operates in coordination with and as partial owner of the university. The foundation oversees scholarships, donations, grants, contracts, research and clinical training, and professional service centers affiliated with the university.

Today, Alliant is comprised of five schools (Alliant School of Management, California School of Professional Psychology, California School of Forensic Studies, San Francisco School, and the Hufstedler School of Education) in six California cities (Fresno, Irvine, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco) and three international locations (Mexico City, Tokyo and Hong Kong).

Famous Faculty

  • Carl Rogers: Carl Rogers, faculty from 1965-1970, was an influential American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. Considered one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research, Rogers was given the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions in 1956. Rogers’ “person-centered approach” to understanding personality and human relationships found wide application in domains such as psychotherapy and counseling, education, organizations, and other group settings. Toward the end of his life, Rogers was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his work with national intergroup conflict in South Africa and Northern Ireland. In an empirical study by Haggbloom, et. Al. (2002) using six criteria, Rogers was found to be the sixth most eminent psychologist of the 20th century; among clinicians, he ranked second only to Sigmund Freud.
  • Abraham Maslow: Abraham (Harold) Maslow, faculty from 1968-1970, was an American psychologist. Considered the co-father of humanistic psychology, he is most noted today for his book Hierarchy of Human Needs. Maslow developed self-actualization into an area for research and application.
  • Viktor Frankl: Viktor Frankl, faculty from 1970-1981, was recognized as the founder of the “School of Logotherapy” and is world famous as the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, a book that describes his struggle to maintain his will to live during three years in the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps.
  • Igor Ansoff: Igor Ansoff, faculty from 1983-2002, is known as the “Father of Strategic Management”. Ansoff authored 130 research papers, articles, and books on strategic management that have been translated into eight languages.
  • Marshall Goldsmith: Marshall Goldsmith, faculty from 2006-present, has been named one of the 50 most influential thought leaders in business by the American Management Association, and has been an executive coach to more than 70 CEO’s around the world.
  • Nick Cummings: Nick Cummings, faculty from 1969-1981, was the founder and first president of the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP). He wrote and implemented the first comprehensive psychotherapy insurance benefit at Kaiser Permanente HMO in the 1950’s and has authored over 300 scientific articles, book chapters and books.
  • Jay Douglas Haley: Jay Douglas Haley, faculty from 1998-2007, was one of the founding figures of brief and family therapy and one of the more accomplished teachers, supervisors and authors of these disciplines. He was involved in the Bateson Project, a collaboration that became one of the driving factors in the creation of family therapy.
  • Max Lerner: Max Lerner, faculty from 1973-1981, was a world famous syndicated columnist for the New York Post and authored numerous books.
  • Paul Hersey: Paul Hersey, faculty from 1978-1979 and 2006 to present, is an internationally known behavioral scientist and highly successful entrepreneur. He is best known for developing “Situational Leadership”, and is recognized as one of the world’s outstanding authorities on training and development in leadership, management, and selling.


Notable Alumni

  • Edmund (Pat) Brown, former Governor of California
  • Jamie Foxx, actor, comedian, singer
  • Leo McCarthy, former Lt. Governor of California
  • Dr. Judy Chu, the first Chinese-American woman elected to the United States Congress
  • Dr. Rose Weahkee, director, Division of Behavioral Health, Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Dr. Peggy Drexler, Cornell University Professor and noted author
  • Dr. Mervyn Dymally, former California Lt. Governor and US Congressman
  • Mizan Zainal Abidin, the King of Malaysia
  • Joseph Salgado, former Undersecretary of the United States Department of Energy
  • P. Terry Anderlini, former President of the California State Bar
  • Thomas Broome, former President of the National Bar Association
  • Milton Marks, former California State Senator