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Case study

MSU Denver’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center was the backdrop – and a study in success – for a national conference on public-private partnerships.

January 25, 2016

MSU Denver’s Springhill Suites Denver Downtown Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center was the backdrop – and a study in success – for a national conference on public-private partnerships. PHOTO: Michael Richmond
MSU Denver’s Springhill Suites Denver Downtown Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center was the backdrop – and a study in success – for a national conference on public-private partnerships. PHOTO: Michael Richmond

“Adapt or die” may be a line from the movie “Moneyball,” but it’s also a good mantra for higher education these days, according to MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan.

“The 21st century is clearly throwing challenges at institutions of higher education at an accelerated pace. If we can’t find ways to adapt, we will, in many cases be forced to shut our doors,” said Jordan on Friday during his presentation at the national Academic Impressions conference, “Financing Campus Facilities through Public-Private Partnerships.” The three-day conference was held at MSU Denver’s Springhill Suites Denver Downtown Hotel, a fitting location given the subject at hand.

Jordan presented both the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center, and the Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Initiative as successful case studies in public-private partnerships. Both endeavors moved forward according to Jordan, “because our Board of Trustees recognized that creating partnerships could lead to new revenue streams for the University in support of academic programs and scholarship opportunities, and create solid and productive connections with our community benefiting both current students and future graduates.”

Before delving into each example in depth, Jordan covered some essential qualities that universities must have in order to develop successful industry partnerships. These include an ability to think creatively; an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to take smart risks; a unified senior leadership; and a horizontal approach that involves interdisciplinary collaboration and aligning academic programs with the skillsets needed by a given economic cluster.

“When you talk to the business sector … they’ll tell you that they need people who are trained together so that the business folks and the engineering folks and the computer science folks are capable of talking the same language and understanding how things work,” said Jordan.

But perhaps most importantly, said Jordan, corporations must understand what’s in it for them.

“This is not about philanthropy. From a corporate perspective, the days of giving for purely philanthropic purposes are gone,” he said. “If they cannot see that there is some significant financial benefit to their corporation, they have no reason to enter into a relationship with you.”

Jordan then took the audience step-by-step through the processes by which the hotel and HLC, and the AES initiative became realities, citing both as prime examples of “how industry clusters and public universities can work together for their mutual benefit and that of their students, as well as the economic benefit of the community.”

The conference closed with a discussion led by Jordan that focused on additional and potential partnerships, including the University’s relationship with the Detroit Institute of Music Education, its two new beer industry majors and a potential health care institute. Look for more information in The Daily as these programs develop.

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