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Make a University Partnership Your Big-Data Weapon
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Formality of University Relationships
  • 1/28/2013 10:33:00 AM
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I suppose all universities are different.  At our university, local professionals just contact me directly - or one of my colleagues - and we just do what needs to be done.  We try to keep the "red tape" to a minimum.  At KSU, we have a consulting center - that tends to be the first point of contact for many companies interested in working with us. 

Our relationships with local companies definitely sit on a "formalized" continuum; on the "more formal" end, we have contracted consulting arrangements, contacted co-op/internships (those need some documentation if the student is going to receive course credit).  On the other end of the continuum, people just call or email and we meet over coffee (most professors will do at least some work if you pay them with caffeine). 

A good place to start is always a psuedo independent entity within the university - like a consulting center.  I think most major universities have one.  Another good entry point is the Dean of the School - most deans are looking for opporutnities for "engagement" with the local community.

 

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/28/2013 8:46:53 AM
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All excellent points.  Yes, we find that companies approach us (the faculty) because we are subject matter experts in a particular field - but we also find that sometimes companies approach us because we are experts in a DIFFERENT field.  For example, we have had several insurance companies come to us inquiring about survival analysis - a technique fairly common in epidemiology (we have three faculty who worked as epidemiologists) but not commonly used in underwriting.  We were able to apply a traditional epidemiological solution to a common insurance oriented question.  That is a great example of how working with university faculty is unique.  We find that companies approach us (the students) often times as "back up" for their team - when the work load peaks, they use our students as contractors.

In the area of big data, we are finding that universities are "safe" places to get information regarding the issues and the developments.  Often consultancies or vendors have a sales agenda and may cast the issues/solutions in a light that is favorable to them.  But, for the most part, university professors are solution-neutral and are more likely to objectively outline the facts.  As a result, we are frequently (almost every week) contacted by local organizations from Fortune 500s and down regarding the latest developments in Big Data. 

 

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/28/2013 8:41:39 AM
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Not having every worked with university folks I'm wondering how much red tape or how difficult the actual logisitics of getting a relationship started might be.

It would certainly seem like a win-win situation. And just how formal should the relationships be. Would more informal cooperative ventures be beneficial and does the size of the school become a hindrance to starting interactivity?

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/27/2013 9:01:12 PM
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Hi Jennifer, great article! I came from the academe so I do have a lot of university contacts, but I guess most don't. It really does seem that we need to expand our network to include the academe.

I also got a lot of "real world" projects in college. I studied marketing communications and our professors were mostly practitioners, so they brought in their clients' projects for us to work on. The clients were quite happy to get free research, strategy and creative ideas from us, while we were (in a sense) honored to work on prestigious brands.

But I do know a university that really built partner consultancy organizations, with their faculty as the consultants, to make money from all the work that was coming from outside. AFAIK clients came in because the professors were the experts in their field. Ever considered this as a business model?

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/27/2013 3:04:41 PM
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Thats another great advantage of the partnerships. They often end up absorbing some graduates each year. An advantage for them too because they pick out the best and have usually trained them on the job while in school. Still a benefit to society is that a lot of those who get this hands-on experience end up being entrepreneurs.

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/26/2013 10:45:26 AM
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@ophdesdi, good points. But has there been a trend where these students are then hired by some of the clients after they graduate?

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/26/2013 9:10:41 AM
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"Real" analytical work with clients is an invaluable experience for students.  I am increasingly of the mindset that all unversity students should have some component of "experiential education" during their college career.  While we (professors) work hard to create realistic experiences for students in the classroom, ultimately they are not real. Messy data, constantly updated data, data dictionaries with incorrect values and demanding clients who dont appreciate how much time a project will REALLY require are all part of the experience of being an analytical professional.  Students who are "tested" in this way are far more valuable Day 1 employees after graduation - because they "get it".  The professors are just in it for the Happy Hour.

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/25/2013 9:38:21 PM
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@ophdesdi, what does Kennesaw and its students/faculty get out of all that work? Paid internships? At least a happy hour after the project is done? 

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/25/2013 3:08:03 PM
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Absolutely, no matter the discipline, students always benefit when people from "real life" come in and share their career and on-the-job experiences. And I'm sure the professionals coming into the classroom get rejuvenated, too!

Re: What do you need?
  • 1/25/2013 8:49:35 AM
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In my university we still don't quite have a data science program although we have actuarial science. Still i agree that partnerships with industry build both the university and the company at least as i've seen in other subjects like IT. there's nothing like when someone from industry runs a class with students. They always appreciate the subject in a new way.

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