Good partners, good business

Companies collaborate with UofSC to prepare students for job market

Corporate sponsorships, scholarships, support for grant applications and endowed faculty positions — companies invest in the University of South Carolina in a variety of ways. They also help new graduates prepare for the job market and in return get top-notch talent in the form of interns and full-time employees.

At the Darla Moore School of Business, such interactions have been formalized since 1969 through the Business Partnership Foundation, which helps generate supplemental financial support for the school and acts as an advisory body to ensure the business school is turning out graduates that meet employers’ needs. The business school has also engaged corporate partners through 11 centers that focus on specific areas of research and offer students and faculty the opportunity to work on real-world projects.

The foundation and the centers are considered key players in the business school’s continued growth, both in numbers and in quality.

“In recent years, Moore School centers, with more than 120 companies on their advisory boards, have built on our efforts,” says Jean Duke, president of the Business Partnership Foundation. “We provide value to these companies and other corporate partners in South Carolina and beyond, while engaging them to invest in business education and hiring interns and graduates.”

Fluor Corp. is a prime example of an engaged corporate partner. The multinational engineering and construction company is based in Irving, Texas, but has extensive operations in South Carolina, thanks to its purchase in the 1970s of Daniel Construction. The company also has a longstanding relationship with UofSC.

“We invest with endowments and through various programs. The collaboration also helps us understand where the business school is headed in terms of curriculum and guide that direction with feedback from the industry,” says Tracey Cook, president of Fluor’s Greenville division AMECO and chief liaison between Fluor and the university. “And we are proud to say our CEO, David Seaton, is a Gamecock.”

In addition to partnering with the Moore School, Fluor works with the College of Engineering and Computing, the College of Education and the athletics department. The company’s support includes scholarships, endowments for professors and sponsorship of the athletics department’s academic honor roll. In the past year, the company has also worked with the Beyond Sports Program to offer internships to student-athletes pursuing degrees in engineering or business.

“One of the things that Fluor holds as a core value is excellence in execution, whether you’re in a classroom or on a client’s construction project,” says Cook, who is herself a 1989 USC accounting graduate. “Having that core value drives us to deliver solutions to our customers. USC shares that value.”

And what’s Fluor’s return on its investment?

“We get back great interns, we get back great employees — especially in the state of South Carolina. We have 7,500 employees in the state now, and many of those are graduates from USC,” says Cook.

Critically, USC also helps the company diversify its work-force.

“Diversity initiatives are really important to Fluor, especially as we focus on attracting talent in the STEM fields,” Cook explains. “I think I had more female interns this year than I had male interns, and that’s because USC has such a diverse population of students. That’s kind of cool, to see the impact of our work.”

“We provide value to these companies and other corporate partners in South Carolina and beyond, while engaging them to invest in business education and hiring interns and graduates.”

Jean Duke, president of the Business Partnership Foundation in the Darla Moore School of Business

Diversity is also important at Dixon Hughes Goodman, one of the 20 largest accounting firms in the country.

The Charlotte-based firm supports the Young Black Leadership Alliance, a program designed to improve the diversity pipeline into USC by identifying black high school students in the Charlotte area who meet a certain GPA criteria and are interested in pursuing higher education.

Trey Ackerman, a client service partner and market managing partner with the firm, is helping lead the initiative. “We are intentionally developing them from a leadership, academic and community service perspective,” says the two-time Carolina alumnus, who holds a bachelor’s in business, ’97, and master’s in taxation, ’98.

“We’ve got this unbelievable group of high school students, 500-plus, that we invest in every year,” Ackerman explains. “If we can help the university attract some of these talented students, we can help create a broader base of diverse talent that can then be drawn on by companies represented in all our markets.”

The firm, which employs more graduates from UofSC than from any other university, also contributes financial support to the university and is a member of the business school’s Friends of Accounting group. But it’s the investment in talent and intellectual capital that Ackerman says pays the biggest return.

“We’re looking at how can we help the university to be the best that it can be,” he explains. “And we’re looking at how the university can help us to be the best that we can be.”

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