Meet Greg Townsend, senior director of corporate, government and community relations at Stevens. In this role — the first of its kind at the university — Greg serves as a single point of contact for anyone who wants to develop a rewarding relationship with Stevens, including businesses, government officials and community groups. The Indicator spoke with him to learn more about how companies can tap into the many resources of the university, including leading-edge research, talented students and graduates and personalized corporate education programs. Read more about the possibilities here.
Q: Why are corporate partnerships important to Stevens?
A: There are so many reasons they’re important! There are obvious reasons, like placing our students in great jobs right out of school and the opportunity to fund major research agreements. Then there are some less obvious reasons, like university prestige.
As Stevens is on this amazing upward trajectory, it’s important to capitalize on this moment. One of the ways for us to reach the next level is to collaborate with corporations on applied science solutions to tough problems. A lot of the faculty members I speak with want to see the impact of their work in the real world. When a corporate partner drives the agenda, you know that you are working on something that will have real-world applicability — and relatively quickly.
It’s very circular in that the more relationships Stevens has like this, the greater the reputation, which leads to more relationships. Greater prestige invites more student applications, increased alumni engagement and more value for Stevens degrees overall.
Q: What kind of partnership opportunities exist at Stevens?
A: We look at corporate partnership opportunities as five spokes in a wheel. All the spokes work together to move the university — and our partners — forward.
One major area of opportunity is career development — we can help our partners fill internships and jobs with highly skilled Stevens students and graduates and also offer valuable experiences for our current students and young alumni.
Corporate philanthropy provides important support for scholarship programs and research.
Another big way companies have worked with us is through our corporate education program. We can tailor continuing education courses and certificate programs to the unique needs of our partners, helping their employees to upskill quickly. Classes can be taught online, or faculty can travel to teach a group of employees on-site. These courses are worth college credit and can be applied toward a master’s degree program.
While Stevens does get the majority of its external funding from the federal government for its research enterprise, there is creative and impactful research that is supported by corporate partners as well. Most federally-funded research is exploratory — corporate-sponsored research is often highly focused, providing faculty and students with terrific opportunities to make short-term impacts, see how companies set their research agenda and, for students, to develop skills that could translate to the workplace.
Industry-focused student projects have become a magnet for companies both big and small. A partner will come to us with a problem that needs to be solved and a group of students will take it on as a capstone project, senior design project or graduate research project. This model has big benefits for everyone — students are mentored by corporate partners, and corporate partners get to meet and work with talented students and faculty.
My role is to facilitate these five kinds of partnerships. Whenever I can, I like to engage corporations in multiple ways to develop strategic, long-term relationships that will grow over time and support one another.
Q: How can alumni help build corporate partnerships with Stevens?
A: Reach out! Alumni shouldn’t hesitate to contact me if they have any questions or ideas about how their company could do more with Stevens. I say that because there are probably readers who think they aren’t high enough on the organizational chart at their company, or they’re in the wrong department to start a conversation about this. I am here to be a thought partner, to help think creatively about how their company might engage with Stevens; a pathway to collaboration could emerge.
Above all, alumni can be champions for Stevens at their companies. Make sure leaders and colleagues know what Stevens is all about. Make sure that you’re connecting with other alums who work for your company and think collectively about how your company can engage with Stevens more closely and deeply benefit, too.
— As told to Erin Lewis