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K-State Today Student Edition

November 7, 2012



Office of corporate engagement making strides with multiple companies

By Communications and Marketing

As the Kansas State University office of corporate engagement enters its sixth month of service to the Manhattan, Olathe and Salina campuses, faculty and staff members may be curious about initial progress. Here is a brief report on what’s happening so far.

Director Richard Potter joined the university on June 1, and in August he attended the annual conference of the Network of Academic Corporate Relations Officers. Conference speakers included industry representation from John Deere, IBM and Novartis, as well as academic representation from the University of Illinois, Carnegie Mellon University and California Institute of Technology.

Keynote speaker Richard DeMillo, author of "Abelard to Apple: The fate of American colleges and universities" and director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology, addressed the evolution of university-industry relations. In this age of transparency, corporations are held accountable for every expense line; each investment is expected to demonstrate value. With regard to industry-university partnerships, deliverables have become the norm.

Potter spent much of the summer meeting with deans, associate deans, faculty members and directors of various institutes and centers of excellence. Larry Erickson, professor of chemical engineering, was one of the first to enlist the Potter’s expertise in connecting with area corporations. Before Potter’s arrival, Erickson had submitted several proposals requesting corporate support for a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station project. In October, Black & Veatch announced a $200,000 grant to support the project and introduced Potter to Exergonix, a start-up company in the Kansas City area that specializes in innovative energy storage solutions. Erickson’s project team will involve the departments of chemical engineering, electrical engineering, chemistry, and the College of Architecture, Planning and Design.

In late October, Potter met with the CEO of Milbank, a Kansas City manufacturer that produces components for electric vehicle charge stations. The company is ready to beta test its SYNAPS6 product, a cutting-edge energy management system that will help homeowners maximize energy savings by integrating solar and wind generated power with energy from the existing power grid. Milbank executives will visit the Manhattan campus later this fall.

In mid-June Potter met with members of the management team at Caterpillar Global Work Tools in Wamego. They were already recruiting accounting interns on a regular basis and had previously participated in K-State career fairs, and they were very open to exploring opportunities for further engagement.

On Aug. 8, Potter pulled together representatives from the College of Business Administration, the College of Engineering, the Division of Continuing Education, career and employment services and the KSU Foundation to meet with Caterpillar’s managers of human resources, operations, accounting, engineering and marketing. Immediately following the meeting, Caterpillar committed to participate in career and employment services’ mock interviews. By early September, a group of mechanical engineering students had selected Caterpillar for their senior project.

Caterpillar managers returned to Manhattan twice in October. The first meeting was with representatives from the Division of Continuing Education and Manhattan Area Technical College. Together they are developing a 2+2 degree completion program tailored for Caterpillar employees. The second meeting engaged College of Business Adminstration faculty in a discussion on current trends in supply chain management. Their next step is to develop a supply chain forecasting internship for Master of Business Administration students.

The office of corporate engagement has targeted 40 corporations for further interaction and relationship development. These include:

  • Abaxis: Potter is working with Ralph Richardson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, to schedule time for Abaxis executives to visit the Manhattan and Olathe campuses.
  • Boomer Consulting: The Division of Continuing Education is exploring a partnership to provide online continuing education for certified public accountants. Boomer executives will be on campus later this month for a demonstration of the K-State online education platform.
  • CivicPlus: The Manhattan business has requested K-State’s assistance to address challenges related to rapid growth. Participating departments include psychology, management, computer information systems, communication studies, leadership studies, and career and employment services.
  • Hershey: Master of Business Administration students have been invited to apply for Hershey internships in finance and marketing, and a video conference is scheduled to introduce Hershey’s chief growth officer and research and development team to the KSU Institute for Commercialization and Sensory Analysis Center.
  • K-Tron: The general manager of the Salina manufacturer has identified a federal funding opportunity and invited K-State's involvement in a Bulk Solids Technology Center partnership. Potter is facilitating communications between K-Tron, the Salina campus, and the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture.
  • NetApp: The Wichita branch of this data storage company has participated in K-State career fairs, hosted student tours of its facilities and expressed interest in joint research projects with the colleges of Engineering and Business Administration.
  • The Roasterie. CEO Danny O’Neill has requested a tour of the K-State Olathe Sensory and Consumer Research Center before the Christmas holiday.
  • Wingstop: College of Business Administration graduate Charlie Morrison was recently named CEO of this growing restaurant chain. He provided a lecture for Hospitality Management students in early October and has plans to establish a Wingstop summer internship program. He also hopes to enlist the Sensory Analysis Center’s expertise as the chain expands into Asian markets.

While these initial corporate connections were somewhat improvisational, an internal advisory council has been established to help direct the university’s corporate engagement strategy. It includes representatives from the office of research and sponsored programs, KSU Foundation, Advanced Manufacturing Institute, Institute for Commercialization, office of government relations, Division of Continuing Education, K-State Alumni Association and KSU Research Foundation. A smaller working group meets on a monthly basis, with a focus on developing campus communications strategies. 

The K-State office of corporate engagement’s purpose is to foster comprehensive, interdisciplinary relationships that engage all aspects of the university with a broad variety of industry partners. Mutual value is essential, and long term relationships must take precedence over short term transactions.

If the examples above stimulate ideas for corporate engagement in your area, or if you are struggling to connect with potential industry partners, the office of corporate engagement is here to help. For more information, contact Richard Potter at rmpotter@k-state.edu or call 785-532-1840.