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five images of various industry partners with Fulton Schools faculty, evoking a partnership feeling

We are your partner

By Liz Farquhar

Convergence magazine > We are your partner

Dean Kyle Squires’ office in downtown Tempe overlooks a transforming metropolitan area.

Formerly known for call centers and real estate, the Valley of the Sun is becoming an attractive place for major companies to locate their thought leaders. That’s a big step toward the emergence of Phoenix as a tech mecca like Seattle and Boston, and it’s no accident the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering sits in the middle of it all.

The Fulton Schools is the largest and one of the most comprehensive engineering schools in the United States. Research faculty numbering more than 355 are leaders and entrepreneurs in virtually every field of engineering inquiry today.

Research expenditures totaled $104 million last year, and the faculty generated 143 patents and 21 startups in the past three years. The environment is rich with intellectual challenge and opportunity for the 22,500 students who enrolled in engineering programs last fall.

Businesses find the Fulton Schools can help them advance, too. “We are your partner,” Squires says to companies. The Fulton Schools can update the skills of current employees and supply a diverse talent pool of new hires. Engaging with faculty members means a firm can learn about and participate in new discoveries. “Bring us into the conversation about big initiatives that go beyond what the current cycle looks like,” he adds.

In the past year, Squires has built a new structure that makes it easier for companies and investors to partner with the Fulton Schools.

Some 30 top senior executives from major national corporations comprise the Industry Engagement Catalyst, which is helping the Fulton Schools shape and direct its future. Squires hopes the board will also become a unified voice with the Fulton Schools to advocate for STEM education and research throughout Arizona.

Another recent launch, the Business Engagement Catalyst, helps companies navigate the complex university environment to identify and activate new connections with faculty and research.

“We want feedback; we want input and active engagement,” says David Wahls, senior director of Development. “We want to help companies think about how they can drive workforce for their companies, drive their brands on campus and plug in throughout the university in the best possible way.”

Building workforce today means embedding your company and your brand into the student experience, Wahls says. This could mean sponsoring a diversity initiative, engaging with students in research or service projects, shaping real-world examples for use in curriculum, providing scholarships or speaking to student groups and classes.

Joseph Huang, executive director of the Business Engagement Catalyst, leads a team that helps companies connect with the latest research in their industry sectors.

“Some companies want to know how new discoveries will apply to their businesses or may be looking for the next big idea they could take to market,” Huang says.

Everyone on his team has experience in the academic world as well as in business. They understand the needs and culture of both sides and can facilitate partnerships.

The Fulton Schools has taken steps to ease the way for companies that want to move into the future by helping to build a powerful engineering education and research school.

“To achieve something really special these days you have to have a partner in the university space,” says Squires. “Think of us first because we think of you first.”