Alum Helps Forge New Corporate Partnership
Jerome Brown ’99 worked to build a relationship between Stevens and HDR
When the opportunity arose for his employer to explore opportunities to deepen partnerships in higher education, Senior Vice President and Global Director of Quality at HDR Jerome Brown ’99 knew his alma mater was a natural fit.
“HDR and Stevens both go about our work in a similar way,” he says. “We often let our performance speak for itself.”
Though it took years — and the help of HDR Area Operations Manager Katie Duty ’03 — to come together, Stevens was awarded a $100,000 grant from the HDR Foundation, a tie for the largest single gift in the foundation’s history.
Stevens will use the funds to bolster the Startup Garage, a state-of-the-art incubator space that supports iSTEM@Stevens and Launchpad@Stevens. The grant will be used to upgrade and expand the technology in the Startup Garage, as well as provide additional equipment to support more students.
“Jerome and I had talked about a partnership between Stevens and HDR and when we learned about the Startup Garage — we knew that it was a fit for what the HDR Foundation supports,” Duty says. Having helped push the effort to completion, she is proud to serve as the HDR employee sponsor of the grant. “It’s exciting, as an alum, to see what Stevens is doing.”
BUILDING THE RELATIONSHIP
Brown has worked for 20 years at HDR, a global professional services consulting firm within the architecture, engineering and construction industry. He says that the engineering industry overall is facing a talent crunch and HDR is no exception. As seasoned, experienced engineers leave, there isn’t enough time for them to transfer experience and knowledge to fresh talent. “You can be a triple-Ph.D., but you won’t have the knowledge that comes with 30 years of experience. There’s a difference between practical knowledge and book knowledge.”
This void presents an opportunity in higher education — and for HDR. Drawing on his own experience at Stevens and his current role on the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science (SES) Advisory Board, Brown knew his alma mater was a great place to start, and he could be a critical link. Brown’s goal is to get HDR more known in the college space, particularly with universities that accelerate students’ learning and practical capabilities.
“HDR is a global company that builds the critical infrastructure needed for society to thrive (bridges, transit, water and wastewater systems, healthcare facilities, research and data centers). But it’s not as sexy as tech — it’s not Google, Tesla or Microsoft — so it’s not as well-known outside our industry,” he says. “It became apparent that there was a mutually beneficial opportunity to expose my colleagues to what Stevens can offer through its curriculum and engineering program, while simultaneously making Stevens students aware of what HDR (and the industry) offers as a career path.”
Brown’s engagement with the Office of Development and Alumni Engagement and active volunteerism led him to Gregory Townsend, Stevens’ senior director of corporate, government and community relations. Together, they created an on-campus experience for HDR leadership to showcase the capabilities of Stevens’ students and researchers.
“Stevens builds technology into everything we do, and it’s one of the reasons Stevens’ students graduate with a set of skills that is applicable immediately to any professional setting,” Townsend says. “Our curriculum and real-world learning and problem-solving opportunities are vast — co-ops, internships, senior design — so that by the time they graduate, every student has at least dipped a toe into the professional world, if not dived in entirely.”
During the visit, HDR leadership was invited to explore the campus and hear presentations from Stevens professors in a variety of areas including system engineering, hydraulics and modeling, and resiliency and sustainability.
“I was very proud of Stevens,” Brown says. “It was a proud moment to witness my top-of-the-technical-ladder HDR colleagues’ eyes widen — they had no idea the depth of capacity, talent and innovation of this school.”
Brown and Townsend both hope this is only the beginning for the HDR-Stevens partnership.
“HDR mirrors what Stevens does in that they use technology and innovation to solve problems,” Townsend says. “We always want to be improving, and this gift to support the Startup Garage will further that opportunity for many of our students. I would like to see the relationship with HDR expand to include direct engagement with students through internships, senior design project sponsorship and recruiting,” Townsend says.
It’s just another way the partnership between the two organizations is aligning.
“HDR leadership sees the opportunities to support senior design projects,” Brown says. “There’s a lot of interest in smart systems and systems design. We’re starting these conversations now and creating a checklist of what we’d be interested in developing on campus.
“The infrastructure industry needs a deep talent pool of engineers and scientists to pull from if we are to support the demands of a growing society. We at HDR know we must start educating folks that this career path can have a profound impact on local communities and society as a whole,” he says. “In this way, my reasons for choosing to attend Stevens and staying at HDR for so long are very closely aligned — they both place the welfare of the greater collective above their own interests.”