May 21, 2019

Author(s): Richard Conn

Finding ways to forge partnerships between University of West Florida students, faculty and area industries was the goal of the first Research Theme Roundtable held May 17 at the UWF Innovation Institute.

Local business leaders and faculty and staff from UWF’s Center for Supply Chain Management Excellence gathered to brainstorm ideas for collaborations that included new mentorship and cooperative education programs as well as internships and more student site visits to businesses.

Dr. Scott Keller, professor and director for the Center for Supply Chain Management Excellence, said the center would like to form an advisory group comprised of local industry leaders.

“One of the ideas that we’ve kind of passed around for years is this idea need of the need for our industry partners to kind of help steer our program,” Keller said.

As an example of the benefit of more engagement between industries and the university, Keller highlighted the UWF supply chain logistics team’s recent second place finish in the 38th annual Operation Stimulus Case Competition in Denver. The team was tasked with creating a global supply chain for a solar company. The students had three weeks to work on a real world industry problem, which better prepared them for entering the workplace, Keller said.

“Those are the students that you hire first,” Keller said. “Those are the students that make the biggest bang when they get in their companies first, and a great deal of that is because of this research that they’re doing with the professors and with industry.”

The format of the roundtable event allowed attendees to break into different discussion groups to formulate ideas.

Dr. Matthew Schwartz, assistant vice president of research administration at UWF and one of the organizers of the event, told the group not to let potential funding barriers stop the flow of ideas of how the University and the business community could work together.

“We’re trying to not let the dollars get in the way of the research or the technical ideas today,” Schwartz said.

One of the ideas proffered was a co-op program for supply chain logistics students that would begin with students’ job shadowing at a company in their sophomore year.

The Research Theme Roundtable will hopefully become a regular event at the Innovation Institute that covers a broad spectrum of issues.

“Our goal is that we’re going to try to run these sort of events throughout the next year for a variety of different topics,” Schwartz said.