Interview on University-Industry Interactions

In prep for upcoming AASCU meeting and panel discussion:

1.  Each of your companies has made a significant investment in educational products, partnerships and services.  Would you each start with a 3 min overview of some of your current corporate activities that support higher education and our students.


IBM Global University Program has a focus on the 6 R’s of industry-university relations – (1) research (awards), (2) readiness (skills), (3) recruiting (talent), (4) revenue (solutions), (5) responsibility (volunteers), (6) regions (entrepreneurship).


We try to recruit T-shaped graduates with both depth and breadth.  For example, deep in engineering, and with breadth than includes business knowledge etc.
2.  What are your key initiatives that will impact higher education in the next 3-5 year?  And be courageous, what would you like to see universities do more of?


MOOCs and big data analytics on learning and career pathways, of course.  Increasing emphasis on university-based entrepreneurial ecosystems (U-BEEs). T-shaped graduates also make good entrepreneurs.  Era of cognitive computing dawning (e.g., what happens when Watson like systems start passing certification exams for different disciplines and professions – medicine will likely be first, including reading X-rays, etc.).


We expect a 10x increase in industry mentorships, leading to a 2x increase in industry internships for students.  A focus on real-world challenges, real-world tools, real-world data, and real-world mentors.  Some of us even envision a possible “Moore’s Law of higher education” becoming increasingly possible, as MOOCs and era of cognitive computing technologies kick-in.

3.  As major employers, what are the intellectual skill sets you seek from college graduates?  Do you see a gap or disconnect between your needs and what you see in college graduates?


Yes, typically higher-education is great at producing I-shaped graduates (with a single discipline depth) – which was terrific for the 20th century, when the pace of change was slower.  Today we need T-shaped graduates (with depth and breadth) – the breadth improves adaptive capacity, innovation capacity, and boundary spanning abilities.  In a word, breadth = empathy, a desire to interact with others and learn what they know.  More real-world, multidisciplinary team-based challenge projects as part of courses, can increase breadth of graduates, and help produce more T-shaped graduates.

4.  Could  you  offer an insight into your internal “university” that is, how do you keep your employees fresh, creative, and contributing to the mission of your company?


IBM spend over $500M per year in upskilling employees, and has numerous programs for IBMers to improve on high-demand career pathways.  Kenexa was an recent acquisition that is central to this strategy for IBM and our customers.

5.  If an AASCU institution were your neighbor, what advice would you give them hoping they are preparing your next generation employee?


Faculty need to change 10% of their lectures per year per course, to include new lecture material that links students via social networks to top local researchers and top local entrepreneurs and industry mentors.  All courses should include a component that is multidisciplinary team-based.  Also travel and experience with other cultures and real-world challenges is key.

6.  Where are the likely sources, the types of research or inquiry that could inform joint research, product development or the development of future employees?


The mission of universities has been summarized as learning (teaching), discovery (research), and engagement (citizenship – business and social entrepreneurship).   Courses that go beyond lectures, and include real-world challenges, real-world tools, real-world data, real-world mentors can improve the pathway toward joint research, via the sequence mentorships -> internships -> entrepreneurship or employment – these types of pathways integrate learning, discovery, and engagement.

7.  How does your company move projects to scale with limited resources?  How do you ensure ongoing creativity and productive work?


Leveraging technological and organizational platforms that scale the benefits of new knowledge, globally and rapidly; Open innovation, and work with customers, suppliers, competitors, and other innovation ecosystem stakeholders, via many mechanisms including professional associations, like, that focus on T-shaped innovators and professional development.

8.  Any advice for this year’s freshman class?

Work with faculty to find industry mentorships, working on real-world challenges that apply the knowledge learned in courses – join Students for a Smarter Planet and, or other professional associations that bring together faculty and practitioners and students as lifelong learners (e.g., INFORMS, ACM, IEEE, IIE, INCOSE, AMA, POMS, etc.).  Travel and experience other cultures.  Working on becoming more T-shaped, and beyond! Pi-shaped is even better.



Leave a Reply