Partnering for Success

Historically black colleges and universities are increasing their competitiveness by teaming up with major corporations and government agencies

last year, Olenda Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of management at North Carolina A&T’s School of Business and Economics, has begun incorporating new technologies into her lesson plans. “I’ll be using some case studies in CD-ROM format,” she says. “The audio and visual elements not available in traditional paper cases make for a more interesting and interactive learning experience for the students.”

Nissan fellows are selected from 88 participating HBCUs. They form their own networks and collaborate to develop new ideas and share information. “The program challenges us to reexamine our own ways of thinking,” says H. James Williams, Ph.D., dean of Delaware State University’s School of Management and two-time Nissan fellow. “We develop the ammunition to influence how the business of HBCUs is conducted.”

For instance, Williams and other fellows from Tuskegee University and North Carolina A&T convinced their administrations to support their development of a collaborative corporate education program for middle- to upper-level business managers. “We need corporate America’s resources and financial support, and it needs our teaching credentials and research expertise,” Williams says. “Together, we can produce qualified students who can hit the ground running in the next century.”

While some HBCUs have one-on-one partnerships, South Carolina State University (SCSU) has taken a “strength in numbers” approach by teaming up with over a dozen companies. In one such program, the Management Education Alliance, SCSU and eight other HBCUs partner with 10 major corporations, including NationsBank, Sunoco, Springs Industries and Pioneer Hi-Bred, a Fortune 500 agricultural manufacturer. “By developing many separate relationships, we have increased support initiatives and more than doubled faculty research funding initiatives,” says Reuben.

Participating fellows spend a semester at an assigned company as paid, full-time consultants. SCSU agribusiness faculty has developed research initiatives, including corporate analysis and assessment, with the Des Moines, Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred. In return, Pioneer has contributed to case writings and conducted curriculum reviews as a member of SCSU’s agribusiness council.

“We only partner with companies that are interested in our business programs-period,” says Reuben. “They’re the ones who can help HBCUs become more competitive.”

In addition to faculty development, some companies provide HBCUs with the infrastructure needed to conduct research on a nationally competitive level.

Atlanta’s Spelman College established such partnerships with a number of companies in 1993. In need of funds for a new science building, the school turned to corporate America for help. “Many corporations expressed interest in doing more than just giving us money,” says Trisa Long Paschal, vice president of institutional advancement. “They saw Spelman as an opportunity to set up a model partnering program for HBCUs.”

And for good reason. Spelman, the belle of the HBCU ball, is among the most recognized of the 116 black educational institutions, which include Howard University, Morehouse College and Florida A&M University. “Corporations always want to team up with big, brandname schools,” adds Ivie. “Collaborations with them are considered valuable due to their size and popularity,” he says.

The result was the Corporate Partnership Program, which sponsors a faculty/executive exchange. It attracted more than 70 companies,

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