Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Marquette employs structured plan in launch of corporate engagement office


By David Schwartz
Published: August 19th, 2019

It takes much more than a demonstrated need and a strong commitment to successfully pursue the creation of a new Office of Corporate Engagement — or to revamp an existing one, for that matter. As Marquette University has demonstrated, it takes a carefully structured plan — one that will not only lead to successful implementation, but will also lay the foundation for this, or any such office, to succeed in its mission.

“As a campus, we had a number of different colleges and business units engaged with industry partnerships for many years,” recalls Kristina M. Ropella, PhD, Dean of the College of Engineering. “But there wasn’t a lot communication between them, so sometimes we’d miss even bigger opportunities for working with the same companies — or even larger ones. We needed to be centralized to be the lens of the entire situation and see those opportunities.”

Accordingly, she says, the university president commissioned a task force in 2017 “to look at the situation, what the role of an office of corporate engagement would be, and how it would benefit the university.” They ultimately developed a strategic plan that outlined what they refer to as “unboundaries.”

The task force, says Ropella, involved 70 individuals across the campus, as well as corporate partners. “There was a smaller steering group, as well as a number of smaller working groups to look at what would be needed out of the office,” she adds. The steering group had “about a dozen” members, she says, and was comprised of the different colleges, corporate partners, and “one or two” trustees.

The smaller groups explored and discussed the ways in which the university interacted with industry in a variety of key areas:

  • Academic programs and executive education
  • Talent development
  • Corporate sponsored research
  • Technology transfer
  • Consortia and alliances
  • Corporate philanthropy and sponsorship
  • Contracts and service partnerships.

“We thought of all the ways in which we interacted and pulled faculty, staff, and corporate representatives into each of the groups,” Ropella says. “Each of them was given a couple of months to do a SWAT analysis and examine best practices and make recommendations for how the new office might best support existing activities and build on new opportunities.”

Task force members traveled to other universities for fact finding and benchmarking, she continues. “Some of them were centralized, while others were not,” Ropella shares. “We then considered the ones we thought did a really good job in corporate engagement and in the things that challenged our campus.”

How Marquette adapted the best practices it discovered — and how it chose to organize the new office — can be instructive to any university involved in industry engagement. “There were lots of reports, but we came out with the idea that while we needed some centralized functions, we also needed for some to be decentralized — not necessarily one or the other,” says Ropella. “There was value in some colleges being decentralized in some areas of industry engagement — maybe in the different types of jobs students get, or in research — but there was also overlap in customer relations, software, sponsorships, and career fairs. Those services are better managed centrally.”

A detailed article on Marquette’s new corporate engagement office appears in the August issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For complete subscription details, CLICK HERE.

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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