Strengthening Industry Collaboration

Coffee mugs in hand, Pittsburgh area business representatives recently gathered to explore greater collaboration with the Tepper School of Business at the Corporate Partners Breakfast program. The event was part of Dean Robert Dammon’s continued effort to strengthen relationships and expand collaborative opportunities between the Tepper School and the region’s business community.

“Our goal is to extend the school’s connection with corporations and industries throughout the Pittsburgh region, linking them with the research and intellectual capital that we have here at both the Tepper School of Business and Carnegie Mellon University,” said Alexa Hansen, Tepper’s director of corporate development and event organizer, as she stepped to the podium.

Hansen welcomed the audience representing nearly 30 companies, diverse in size and industry, ranging from “long-standing corporate headquarters to exciting and innovative new startups” and noted that it was nice to see a healthy mix of Tepper alumni with a significant turnout of graduates from other institutions in attendance. She then introduced Dean Dammon, “who is truly an inspirational leader, a beloved teacher and highly-respected researcher in the field of financial economics as well as a champion in leading new initiatives and growth at the Tepper School.”

Dean Dammon began his presentation by outlining the five Tepper academic programs – from undergraduate to Ph.D. – and the school’s impressive rankings. He pointedly recognized the school’s distinguished faculty.

“We are very proud of our history,” he added, noting Tepper’s revolutionary past and eight Nobel Prize winners, “but our story doesn’t end in the past. We continue to do path-breaking research and our faculty are leaders within their fields, highly recognized for their contributions.”

He moved on to enumerate four primary ways that area businesses can access the Tepper School’s intellectual capital – its students and faculty.

First, he touched on the ability to hire the top-notch Tepper students, “the very best from around the world.” He stressed the school’s strong training in both analytics and leadership skills, referring to the new Accelerate Leadership Center and its unique, customized approach.

This isn’t news to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the professional services firm that routinely hires more than 20 Tepper students each year for full time positions as well as employing a significant number of interns from the school each year.  According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, this represents a higher class percentage than from any other business school.

“Tepper students have broad skill sets, an excellent mix, with a particular ability for getting things done and for teamwork. They have a long history of doing very, very well at PwC,” stressed Paul Frank, MBA’00, PwC principal. As a Tepper School alumnus, he’s a prime example of that successful track record, and he’s proud to help PwC maintain a strong connection with the school.

Justin Kraus, MBA’09, also a Tepper alumnus and PNC Financial Services vice president, couldn’t agree more. “We also have a long history with Tepper,” he said. “Our alumni employees are hardworking and perform at a very high level. They just have a can-do spirit, a ‘we’ll figure it out and find a way of getting it done’ attitude. We welcome opportunities to connect with the school.”

Dammon next described the second way of accessing Tepper intellectual capital – enrolling in the school’s programs, degree and executive education. Companies can sponsor students for Tepper’s two part-time MBA programs or take advantage of powerful executive education programs, both open-enrollment and customized.

“We specialize in customized programs and do them better than anybody,” noted Dammon. “They are highly effective because the material is targeted for a company’s particular needs. Many schools are not willing to develop custom programs because they involve too much work. There’s no such thing as too much work at Carnegie Mellon.”

Dean Dammon next discussed a third avenue of collaboration – with students and faculty within the classroom.

“Experiential learning has become an important part of the MBA education,” he said. “Sponsoring projects is another way to take advantage of the expertise we have here, giving an organization access to innovative thinking and cutting-edge solutions to business problems.”

Companies also have the opportunity to connect directly with faculty members by assisting them with their specific research efforts.  Anita Woolley, assistant professor of organizational behavior & theory, actively seeking such cooperation, was on hand to describe her intriguing work on collective intelligence in human groups.

Lastly, Dean Dammon outlined a way for companies to access not only the Tepper School’s expertise, but collaborative intellectual capital from across the university campus- through interdisciplinary master’s programs and centers.

He described the Master of Product Development program and the MBA MPD track (MPD), a blend of study in business, design and engineering, and touted the #1 ranked Master of Science in Computational Finance program (MSCF), a graduate-level degree program that combines faculty and resources from four of CMU’s seven schools on campus.

Discussing the numerous cross campus research centers, he mentioned the new PNC Center for Financial Services Innovation, conducting research “ranging from cyber security to serving customers via mobile devices,” as well as the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a new merger of business and computer science expertise.

Rounding out the morning was executive director of corporate relations Carolyn Hess Abraham, discussing the Corporate Associates program, an opportunity for companies to connect with the Tepper School community through the support of student programs, events, clubs and research efforts.

“We have amazing programs, students and faculty,” said Abraham. “This is possible due to the outstanding support that we receive from our alumni community and the corporate community in the Pittsburgh region and beyond,” said Abraham. “We are very grateful for that and we welcome future collaborations.”

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