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Industry advisory councils create new opportunities for engagement

By David Schwartz
Published: January 7th, 2020

Having an advisory council consisting of industry leaders has long been seen as a benefit to industry engagement efforts and a key strategy in securing and nurturing partnerships. But the standard model of a single council covering the entire university is giving way to new structures that are more targeted to specific focus areas or departments.

Proponents say taking the more targeted approach with multiple councils can be more effective in strengthening ties with faculty and fostering their collaborations with companies. But observers say there is no one “right” way to go, and there are plenty of variations.

Australia’s Monash University, for example, follows the more traditional one university/one council approach. Texas A&M has two separate councils in engineering alone — one for the College of Engineering, and a newer group created in 2014 that advises the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) — the research arm of engineering for the university that focuses on research, workforce development and tech transfer.

At Duquesne University, advisory councils are even more targeted, with many of the university departments having their own advisory council. “This concept was suggested by the Dean, who wanted more structured, systemized help for those faculty and students in those majors,” says Valerie Williams, assistant professor of practice in accounting and director of both the Accounting Honors Institute and Accounting Mentorship Program.

“What councils have done for each of the functional areas is created a closer link between council members and faculty,” adds Kathleen Hartzel, PhD, chair of the accounting department. “You can easily send out an e-mail, pick up the phone and call. The relationships are much tighter.”

The Monash Industry Council of Advisers (MICA) includes chairpersons and CEOs from leading national and international corporations. “MICA will play an integral role in leading Monash University’s industry engagement strategy and provide the University with essential advice and counsel to Monash as we move to build much stronger ties and relationships with industry,” claims the university website.

“We wanted to represent the broadest take on industry,” adds Ken Sloan, deputy vice-chancellor and vice president at Monash, who notes that his school’s industry advisory council had been running for about two years when he assumed his position. “We’re not just looking at it from the profit sector; some members are from not-for-profit and government-funded industry. We also wanted to make sure there was some inside representation on the entrepreneurial side — people who have been CEOs of new ventures or of companies that work to establish new ventures.” At least some of the members, he adds, are always alumni.

At Duquesne, “to support the accounting program, the council includes members of the administration and accounting faculty and a diverse group of accounting professionals from both corporate and accounting firms including Big 4 firms, regional and smaller firms,” sayss Tom Garbe, executive in residence and former senior vice president at PNC Bank. “Over the years the council has worked on strategic plans, both for the accounting program and the school of business.” Garbe was involved with the council for many years before he retired and was appointed as a member of the restructured council in 2019.

“Our council is made up of industry – they do not have to be alumni — and it is set up truly as an advisory council,” says Cindy Lawley, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for academic and outreach programs and assistant dean for engineering academies at Texas A&M. “We have three subcommittees who work directly with industry. Throughout the year we look for new initiatives and try to stay relevant to what’s out there — what type of students they hire and new technologies. A lot of the focus is what are the needs of industry, what is the future, and how should we adapt — what should we teach our students? And a lot of it is forecasting.”

A detailed article on making effective use of industry advisory councils appears in the December issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For complete subscription details, CLICK HERE.

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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