Corporate partnerships driving high-level collaboration at ASU

As the global marketplace continues to transform rapidly, companies are faced with ever-growing demands to remain competitive. A prepared workforce, increased visibility, agile and creative problem-solving skills, opportunities to convene thought leaders and decision-makers, access to cutting-edge research and infrastructure is critical to discover real-world solutions to address industry needs. To meet these requirements, Arizona State University continues to expand its corporate engagement and strategic partnerships in innovative ways.

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is one such partnership that offers a new model for education access. More than 12,000 Starbucks partners (employees) are currently pursuing their degrees through the plan, and nearly 3,000 have earned ASU degrees, with the goal to graduate 25,000 partners by 2025. Starbucks also launched Starbucks Global Academy in 2017 as a platform to scale additional learning resources to partners and customers on a global scale.

“By aligning with an organization like ASU, with shared mission and values, our only limits are those we put upon ourselves,” said Mary Dixon, director of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. “Continually stretching and finding new ways to collaborate pushes the boundaries of what is possible to meet our shared vision.”

Most recently, Starbucks created Starbucks Technology Center in 2017. Located in the heart of SkySong, one of the Innovation Zones at ASU, the center is a full-fledged extension of Starbucks’ technology function based at their headquarters in Seattle. Their Arizona center is fully integrated, comprised of full-time Starbucks partners as well as ASU students serving as interns.

ASU’s partnership with Starbucks laid the foundations for our approach to developing comprehensive and inclusive relationships with corporations. The spirit of that effort is expanding with the introduction of Practice Labs, a new model for university-industry collaboration. The concept includes individualized approaches to providing both a unique work and learning experience for students, as well as scalable solutions for partners.

The Practice Lab concept is unique not only in theory and design but in approach and operation. Each one is tailored to the specific needs of the corporate sponsor. Companies come to ASU with a problem; be it designing a new product prototype, developing specialized software or devising high-tech protocols to solve an engineering challenge. ASU then assembles a team of qualified students — and where appropriate, experienced faculty and high-level project managers — to collaborate with the company to find a solution.

Practice Labs are already proving themselves successful, both for students and corporate partners. Companies are tapping into the fresh perspectives and approaches of student creativity as well as cultivating a talent pipeline. Students are thriving in environments where they have the chance to work alongside professionals as members of high-functioning teams, gain experience and build a robust resume. To date, we’re seeing companies of all sizes coming forward to embrace the concept. Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Chemonics International, Verde Solutions, Cyr3con/Cyber Reconnaissance, and Workiva are just a few of the partners with active Practice Labs in place.

Together, we can accomplish great things. I look forward to sharing how you can be part of this dynamic new approach.

Dr. Sethuraman (Panch) Panchanathan

Written by

EVP, Knowledge Enterprise Development & Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Arizona State University. #FutureOfWork