Magazine article The Presidency

Building HIGH-IMPACT Partnerships

Magazine article The Presidency

Building HIGH-IMPACT Partnerships

Article excerpt

Beset with multiple challenges, our urban public universities are continuously in search of new approaches to address market and community needs. Repeated concerns relate to the preparation of students and the universities' apparent indifference toward its community.

We continually hear of dissatisfied employers who want more relevant hard-skills preparation for the graduates that they are hiring. No doubt we can do better at how we prepare our students for the constantly changing marketplace. It is clear to us, however, that the responsibility to prepare and train more market-ready students represents a shared opportunity. This opportunity derives from the core marketplace need that pivots around talent: talent that will maintain and enhance core company business operations; talent that will add value to the bottom line; talent that will have the ability to respond to market conditions and help companies adjust day by day to new opportunities.

Universities are talent magnets. Faculty bring cutting edge knowledge that gets transferred to peers, to students, to staff, and often to external company partners. Much of this effort is necessarily channeled through classroom pedagogy and some hands-on practical application. The formal educational experience can serve as a baseline qualification for a student's degree and validate that the student is workplace-ready. Yet employers often believe that deeper work experiences or more specialized training is necessary, because of actual workplace complications and specificities that are usually intensely particular to that company and/or niche in the global marketplace.

Urban universities in metropolitan areas, as anchor institutions in their communities, have unique opportunities to impact those communities beyond the traditional "outreach" logic of the nineteenth-century land-grant institution. Because universities attract talent at all levels, this talent has unprecedented opportunity to address local issues that may require the thoughtful assessment and option development that universities are mandated to provide.

The dynamic nature of Florida's population growth and Miami's role as a global city provide significant opportunities for Florida International University (FIU) that can uniquely define the FIU experience and provide additional value in the community. On one hand, the university understands that it has a sacred responsibility to prepare students to take good jobs and/or create good jobs. On the other, the university has accepted that it can take responsibility for bringing solutions to the table to help address major and minor community challenges.

As a consequence, we have made an intensified commitment to developing a win-win-win partnership logic with local companies and organizations. This logic aligns our institution with community challenges and in the process gives students, faculty, and professional staff additional opportunities to enhance community improvement and well-being.

To clarify and accelerate our partnership development, we created an Office of Engagement led by a newly appointed vice president. This office takes the lead in identifying and developing partnerships with key stakeholders in our community. It serves as a one-stop shop for interested community members who may neither have the time nor inclination to figure out the maze of colleges, schools, centers, and institutes that populate our large ecosystem. Most importantly, it is results-oriented and intensely focused on marrying partner needs with FIU capabilities. Below, we describe instances of how this has worked.

Talent Development Network

The Office of Engagement is spearheading the Talent Development Network (TDN), a collaboration with six other local academic institutions that have banded together to help create an internship culture in Miami. The TDN sprung from the Beacon Council's One Community One Goal initiative, intended to foster job creation and talent retention in Miami in seven key sectors of the economy. …

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