NC State forms partnerships with corporations, nonprofits and government partners to create job opportunities for faculty and students, and to enhance classroom and laboratory experiences. In return, companies gain access to student and faculty talent.
Leah Burton, the director of the office of partnerships, said the main goal behind creating industry partnerships is to offer students direct experience with companies.
“We are looking to offer an experiential opportunity for our students where they are able to intern with a company, do research with a company or do hackathons,” Burton said. “There are different sorts of ways that we create those partnerships, but all in the idea of delivering something for our faculty and students that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.”
According to Mark Schmidt, the associate vice chancellor for partnerships, many companies want to partner with NC State to have access to the talent of faculty and students.
“Our ability to connect those companies with the entity and talent on campus is really the hallmark for the foundation of these partnerships,” Schmidt said. “We like to think of those partnerships as a two-way street, where there is value delivered on both sides; the company benefits from that, but we want to make sure that the faculty and students do as well.”
Centennial Campus serves as the co-location of 74 companies and government entities partnered with NC State, according to Burton.
“We are always striving to have that connectivity,” Burton said. “Some companies we create partnerships with are not located on Centennial Campus for a variety of reasons, but we are still interested in working with them.”
Companies such as Lexisnexis, Bandwidth and Eastman Chemical have a large presence on Centennial Campus, opening up opportunities for student and faculty research and potential careers for students after graduation.
According to Burton, student contribution to product development greatly benefits NC State partners.
“Our students should keep in mind that the way that they are working with companies is absolutely contributing to product development within the company,” Burton said. “The days of internships where students are making coffee isn’t the case anymore. They are looking for that perspective that they don’t already have within their company, and that is contributing to product development ideas.”
Although there is a lot of enthusiasm for partnerships, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, NC State approaches partnerships with an interdisciplinary approach to ensure opportunities across many colleges.
“Part of our commitment in the office is to make sure we are identifying partnerships for all parts of the university, not just the colleges that perhaps have the most immediate opportunity, like engineering,” Schmidt said. “There is certainly a lot of energy there for partnerships, but we see opportunity for all the different colleges.”
STEM disciplines are a very prominent portion of the research opportunities partnerships provide, according to Burton, but these opportunities are open to students in all majors.
“The psychology department has done some pretty impressive user experience projects with our companies,” Burton said. “Within the communication department, there is communication rhetoric and digital media. These are just a couple of programs that come to my mind right away, but our students shouldn’t think about the opportunities with these companies being restricted to STEM disciplines.”
NC State will approach companies about a partnership when they recognize that their activity intersects, but more often companies will approach NC State asking for a partnership due to the university’s established reputation.
“Our students are extremely desirable for companies, so we have an awful lot of companies coming to us,” Burton said. “We look at it both ways, and ultimately, we are evaluating what it is that the company is interested in and whether we have the best expertise or the best mechanism with which to engage with them.”
According to Schmidt, having an established reputation is beneficial to the University. Since many universities offer partnerships, companies will form a partnership with the one they believe will benefit them the most.
“NC State has unique value for the company, and one thing that we’ve learned with a lot of companies is that it’s a buyers market,” Schmidt said. “They can go to a lot of different places to have access to faculty and student talent to do research, but NC State differentiates in a lot of ways.”
Schmidt said NC State is a unique partner due to the capabilities of the students and the location of campus.
“We are fortunate to be where we are, both with the capabilities of the University and also to be in the RTP area where there is a lot of business activity wanting to partner with universities,” Schmidt said. “Our ability to work with those companies and understand what their needs are and tailor the relationships to that differentiates NC State and also delivers value uniquely.”
For more information about NC State partnerships, click here.