For the asking Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2007

Your local university campus — a little-known business resource — offers counseling, consulting and training services, often at no cost to clients.

“The economic impact of the hundreds of jobs created and retained annually and the cost savings to area businesses are important to the future of the region and our local economy,” says Betsy Boze, dean of the Kent State University Stark Campus. “Local universities like ours serve hundreds of businesses a year in customized executive training and research, including LEAN/Six Sigma training and certification, strategic planning and market research.”

Additionally, universities like Kent State Stark sometimes cooperate with SCORE, a nonprofit association that locally boasts more than 30 experienced, retired business owners and executives who provide entrepreneurs and small business owners with confidential, free business advice.

Smart Business talked to Boze about the services available to businesses at local university campuses.

What kind of meeting and conference facilities are available?

Many universities, including the Kent State Stark Campus, offer state-of-the-art technology, free parking and quality in-house food service. These facilities and conference centers can be used for board meetings, training sessions, corporate retreats, high-end social events, fundraisers and weddings. Our Professional Education and Conference Center is one of only two accredited International Association of Conference Centers in Northeast Ohio.

What small business development services are available through local campuses?

Small Business Development Centers like ours offer counseling, consulting, training and referrals. The Kent State Stark SBDC is a cooperative effort of the state of Ohio, the federal government and Kent State University Stark Campus. Certified business analysts provide management assistance to pre-venture individuals and current small business owners at little or no cost. Some small businesses can work with business and management faculty, using students to assist with their research and planning needs through supervised classroom projects. In some instances, students volunteer in areas related to what they are studying to reinforce learning and help them appreciate the community and the industry. Our 5,300 students volunteered more than 25,000 hours last year.

What training programs work in conjunction with certain private businesses?

Many exciting partnerships can be created, especially with manufacturing, health care and service organizations. Customized professional training and organization development are popular programs. These include management development for mid-level managers, retreats with organization leaders to develop their mission and vision statements, and strategic plan and team-building with cross-functional work groups.

How do student internships work?

Internships are a great way for an employer to provide a bridge during expansion or bring in a fresh perspective. Sometimes internships are so successful that they turn into permanent positions, but there is no expectation or commitment on the part of the employer. Students may participate in paid or unpaid internships that carry course credit. Some degrees require an internship for graduation. Some students work with an employer to expand on the typical work experience and participate in management or decision-making activities.

How do degree-completion programs work, and what kind of cooperation is expected from employers?

With the rapid rate of change in information and technology, employers recognize the value of a liberal arts education. Some courses that may not seem directly related actually benefit the employee and the work force by improving critical thinking as well as communication, technology and reasoning skills. While high school or an associate degree may have been enough to get ahead just a few years ago, today’s high-paying jobs and the jobs of the future require a bachelor’s degree.

Degree-completion programs build on existing course work or associate degrees leading to bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Our hope is that employers support their employees’ education with flexible scheduling and/or tuition assistance. In some cases, students can design a customized major.

We are launching our Business Flex program, where a student can earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration (BBA) by attending classes only two nights a week.

BETSY BOZE is dean of Kent State University Stark in Canton. Reach her at (330) 535-3377 or bboze@kent.edu. For free management consulting, call SCORE at (330) 244-3280 or e-mail cantonscore@gmail.com. Chris Paveloi is responsible for student internships and can be reached at (330) 244-5043 or cpaveloi@stark.kent.edu. The Office of Corporate and Community Services, (330) 244-3508 or YourCorporateU@stark.kent.edu, offers training and research. The Small Business Development Center, (330) 244-3295 or SBDC@stark.kent.edu, has small business development, counseling and training services. To inquire about special events or meetings, contact the Professional Education and Conference Center at (330) 244-3300 or jfolk1@kent.edu.