Businesses want more links to U

Nancy Ngo

Corporate executives had a single message for University President Mark Yudof at a business conference Thursday: Strengthen ties with the private sector.
More than 300 people listened to Yudof lay out his plan to form more partnerships and flood employment pipelines with well-skilled University graduates. Through reinforced academic programs and cutting-edge technology, Yudof said the school will attract and train students that will dominate Minnesota’s work force.
“The wealth of the nation will be intellectual property,” Yudof said at the Minnesota Meeting held at the Minneapolis Hilton hotel.
It’s something John Blackshaw wanted reaffirmed. The senior vice president of Tunheim Santrizos depends on a constant flow of University graduates to staff his public relations firm.
“The University is certainly one of a couple of institutions in the state we certainly look to when we hire for our business,” Blackshaw said. More than 20 percent of his employees are University graduates. The same is true for many of the other attendees, which ranged from Dayton-Hudson Corp. and Honeywell to the League of Women Voters of Minnesota.
Yet it was students invited from Twin Cities high schools who dominated the discussion.
The students, who were from the top percentile of their high school classes, peppered the president with questions about how universities and companies will play a role in their future careers.
Carles Tennin, a senior at Minneapolis’ North High School, wanted to know what types of financial incentives the University would employ to lure students.
“Financially, I’m not able to do it alone. That will be a big influence in where I go to school,” Tennin said. He plans to major in education and is also considering schools in Atlanta and Chicago.
University officials have said they worry about the migration of the state’s top high school students. Businesses also loathe the loss of human capital.
Yudof assured business representatives and prospective students the University is changing to play a big role in their respective futures.
“I’ve tried to be proactive in creating a sense of well-being at the University,” he said.
He briefly mentioned the five areas he has prioritized for the University: molecular and cellular biology, design, digital technology, multimedia and agriculture and research.
Yudof also emphasized that instilling pride in students was key because it would resonate throughout the state. He mentioned “Beautiful U Day” as an example of community building. The fall quarter initiative was meant to spruce up campus by doing such things as painting the Washington Avenue Bridge.
“Even I got out there and tried to paint the Washington bridge. People took such empathy for the inept job I was doing that they went out and finished painting the bridge for me,” Yudof joked.
His light-hearted speech was a break from his week’s visits to the state Capitol and outstate communities, where he championed the University’s funding needs for buildings and academic programs.
The dialogue between the University and businesses comes at a time when job prospects for college graduates are at a high-point. The National Association of Colleges and Employers estimates that nearly 70 percent of employers plan to hire more college graduates than last year.
Some economic experts predict this trend will continue for at least the next decade.