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UAlbany revamps approach to corporate engagement, seeks to eliminate ‘silos’

By David Schwartz
Published: July 2nd, 2019

About 30 months ago the University at Albany – State University of New York embarked on a major transformation of its corporate engagement efforts, seeking to eliminate what it saw as significant communication breakdowns and an opportunity to better serve its industry partners.

“We recognized that while there was really great work going on within the campus, we didn’t talk to each other very often,” recalls Terri Scalise Roller, MSEd, director of corporate engagement. “We’d bump into each other a lot when contacting industry partners. And the then interim president indicated this was an issue — that we needed to be more strategic in dealing with our corporate partners.”

In response, UAlbany put a plan in place that was based on the Network of Academic Corporate Relations Officers (NACRO) white paper, “The Five Essential Elements of a Successful Twenty-First Century University Corporate Relations Program.”

“It looks not only at philanthropy, but tech transfer, research, students — any way to connect,” Roller says.

“This was right around the time that we started [working with UAlbany],” recalls Jason Anderson, product manager with TruWeather Solutions, a disabled veterans-owned start-up, based on campus, that focuses on weather-related safety needs. “We had a great relationship with the administration, assistance from the school of business in terms of marketing and business plans, and numerous interactions with the research center for grant proposals. But there were many different voices; everyone was always welcoming in the departments, but we didn’t always know where to go.”

The first step UAlbany took to create a single voice was establishing the Corporate Engagement Council, which includes 17 members from diverse areas of corporate engagement.

“We identified potential members by looking at who spends a good portion of their day with corporations,” Roller explains. “On campus you can say almost everyone does at some point, but these are people whose job description lists that as a responsibility – career services, applied learning, research and tech transfer, and so on. We also wanted to take a look at stewardship, community development, the alumni piece — who can be our champions.”

The university president invited them all to participate at the first meeting. “It was really important that leadership buy into this,” says Roller. This took a little bit of education, she adds, because even though members of our council realized industry relations needed to be improved, “we were not a campus that utilized this holistic approach.”

However, she adds, when the president invites you, you attend. The new council represented “a real culture change,” she continues, noting that it meets once a month. “Faculty, staff, and students used to reach out to their corporate partners any time and in any way that they wanted to. This led to a lot of fatigue on the part of the partners when they heard from so many people. So, we focused on communication, and put best practices in place on how to reach out to corporate partners, how to be strategic, how to respond to their needs.”

A detailed article on U Albany’s approach appears in the June issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription details, CLICK HERE.

Don’t miss another issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. CLICK HERE for details on this one-of-a-kind publication focused on helping universities build long-term, strategic corporate partnerships

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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