When TU President Kim Schatzel announced her eight presidential priorities, the BTU: Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore framework really piqued my interest. As a faculty member in the College of Business & Economics, I would be remiss to not be actively engaged in the regional business community. Our business relationships provide student internships, guest speakers, job placements, and inform our curriculum. We really would not be a successful business school without strong external partnerships—so is that block officially checked? Not necessarily.
Most of us take part in several external engagements. Some are emerging ideas that we are just starting to discuss. Some are transactional like when we have a company sponsor a student competition. Others are one-time collaborations where we might have an industry speaker come to campus but have no formal agreement with their company or expectation that we will continue into future semesters. The big ones are ongoing collaborations where we have an agreement that we expect to produce mutual benefits for years to come. Knowing where my engagements fit in this framework helps me understand the resources I am committing to it, what it delivers to the campus and to the community, and its potential for future benefits.
Regardless of which form the engagements take, the presidential priority challenges us to move our engagements toward alignment, scalability, sustainability, and being institutionalized.
Alignment means that the engagement fits within one of the five targeted impact areas: high quality and equitable education; lifelong health and well-being; strong neighborhoods and sustainable communities; thriving and competitive economy; vibrant arts and cultural community. Most of my business community engagements fall under thriving and competitive economy.
Scalable means that they can grow, sustainable means that they can be maintained over time. Those are the two biggest issues for me. Scalability is a problem because I can only manage as many external relationships as time will allow based on my teaching, scholarship, and service responsibilities. Similarly, the ebbs and flows of my workload means that some semesters I cannot consistently sustain all the engagements.
But that is where institutionalization comes to the rescue. Institutionalizing means to make the engagement official, recognize it, and manage it as part of a system.
That is where we often stumble, we don’t get the full benefit of our engagements because we each manage our external engagements individually. I have my external engagements, my dean has her engagements, my colleagues have their engagements. Sometimes they are the same people, or the same company, or are all in the same community but we don’t know it. A company I work with this semester for a student project may be perfect to work with the Career Center next semester.
For 2018, I want to manage my external engagements differently. As I list them out, I want to answer questions about each one.
- Is it emerging, transactional, a one-time collaboration, or an ongoing collaboration?
- Does the engagement have the potential to evolve into an ongoing collaboration?
- What benefits do each of us gets from the engagement?
- Can the engagement be leveraged such that other campus groups can join?
- How do I sustain this engagement, should I bring in other campus partners to help?
- Has the engagement been logged on the BTU database so that others are aware?
I am sure that I will find some engagements that were transactional or one-time engagements. I should pass them along so that their good experience might be built on by another colleague. The emerging ideas need to be evaluated with a bigger lens by bringing in others from the campus community that might benefit from the engagement. Hopefully, a few will turn into ongoing engagements that will provide mutual benefits for years to come.
At Towson University, we make a difference in the region. I believe that by identifying and bringing our external engagements together we can have even more impact on and off campus.