This is the second in a series of interviews about Marquette’s new Office of Corporate Engagement. Read Part 1 online.
President Michael R. Lovell in his January 2018 campus address announced the formation of a new Office of Corporate Engagement, calling it critical to the university realizing its vision to be among the most innovative and accomplished Catholic, Jesuit universities in the world.
Developing the office was the unanimous recommendation of the President’s Task Force on Corporate Engagement at the end of last year. In advance of the office’s opening, Marquette Today sat down with three members of the task force to talk a bit more about why an Office of Corporate Engagement is important to Marquette’s future.
Following are excerpts from the interview with Dr. Kris Ropella, Opus Dean of Engineering and chair of the search committee for the new office’s vice president; Dr. Doug Fisher, director of the Center for Supply Chain Management; and Dr. Rosemary Stuart, associate dean for planning in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences and professor of biology.
One reason to centralize an office like this is to eliminate silos. Talk about how the Office of Corporate Engagement can be successful in that.
Kris Ropella: Let’s use career services as an example. We have career services functions across campus, and there are advantages to having some of that centralized, and there are advantages to having support from within the colleges where you really know your own students and industries. But the problem is a lot of these individuals and efforts aren’t coming together. For example, there’s a board and everybody has a voice, everybody’s part of the decision-making, and you’re doing things that make a whole lot of sense to be done centrally, whether it’s databases or websites or some of the things that individual colleges do. And we’re also not doubling up on efforts, but rather supporting each other instead. Some of these things aren’t happening right now.
Rosemary Stuart: I think part of our current structure is that the university rewards silos or at least encourages silos. And I think the Office of Corporate Engagement should be strategically designed to be incentivized and rewarded to break down those silos. And if we’re saying that this office’s goal is not to fundraise, that its goal is relationship-building, it needs to be incentivized and structured and rewarded to build relationships, not to bring in a certain amount of dollars from certain corporations.
Doug Fisher: There has never been an easy way for a corporation to pick up the phone and find out who they need to talk to at Marquette. So there has to be an easy access point to the university for many of these corporations — not just those that know us, but those that don’t. I think there also has to be an easy way for faculty to engage. There has been kind of a consistent problem of, ‘Boy, I’d really like to do something like X, particularly within the College of Business, but it just doesn’t fit the profile of what I’m held accountable to do.’ So, let’s figure out a way to make that a win-win for both the university and the business.
Some may not understand how they fit into the realm of corporate engagement—talk about the need for this office to be collaborative and interdisciplinary.
RS: Take talent development. The days of looking for that tech-only student are gone; the days of looking for the engineering-only student are gone. Employers are looking to come and brand themselves on campus, but also to connect with students from across disciplines. And if we continue to work as a university with our own little silos, then we’re not going to maximize and enhance the opportunities for our students. We must break down some of these silos and encourage more collaboration and transparent and clear communication between among offices. I think having an Office of Corporate Engagement that can be very sensitive to and aware of all the different skills and talents on this campus, and they can say, ‘Hey, okay, come to Marquette. Oh, by the way, you need to talk to this person in engineering and that person in business and this person in health sciences’ — somebody who can orchestrate.
KR: Yes! And that’s their focus. The information is centralized, and there’s someone who’s overseeing the whole thing. Otherwise, maybe I only know bits and pieces of what, say, Doug is doing in business.
DF: Businesses today are facing one of the biggest changes in their histories, with this “fourth industrial revolution.” It’s not just a new mass production system — this is an interdisciplinary confluence of the Internet of Things, where everything is connected: social media to mechanical media; it is analytics to big data to artificial intelligence to machine learning, and oh, by the way, the psychology of machine learning. How do you program it? It’s advanced manufacturing, of which engineering plays a big role. But then the entire business model changes. And now I’ve got cash flow, inventory, distribution and all that, and now I’ve got security issues — cyber-security — and then I’ve got intellectual property, which brings the Law School into this thing. It’s only logical that we have a person who pick up the phone and say to these companies, ‘Yes, we have a good engineering school, but we can bring the moral high ground to this equation as well.’ And that really is important to many of these corporations.
Watch Marquette Today for more from Drs. Ropella, Fisher and Stuart on the new Office of Corporate Engagement.