With his institution having crafted educational and business partnerships with companies such as Amazon and Royal Dutch Shell, Robert Morris University President Christopher Howard urged the audience at the June 15 African American Chamber of Commerce PowerBreakfast to seek out his staff, which of course, were in attendance.
“We’re in the business of business,” he said. “And we want to play.”
Robert Morris always has been; from its 1921 beginning as the Pittsburgh School of Accountancies, to its days as Robert Morris Business School, then as Robert Morris Junior College, then Robert Morris College, and now as a doctoral-granting university.
In addition to its business school, RMU boasts schools of Nursing and Health Science; Engineering, Mathematics and Science; Education and Social Sciences, and Communications and Information Sciences.
And the university is now in the midst of a campus expansion, a capital campaign, and a new strategic plan that, serendipitously, will be fully implemented by 2021, just in time for its centennial.
The plan has six main points, but first on the list is making RMU a “preferred strategic partner” for corporations and other organizations in order to develop new non-tuition income streams.
He said that is already happening with its agreements to provide customized executive-level training for agencies like the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Koppers and FedEx Ground. “And when Royal Dutch Shell needed an environmental impact study done for its Potter Township site, they didn’t go to CMU, they came to us,” he said.
As for expansion, the first visible sign will be the new $42-million UPMC Event Center, currently under construction.
“It will not only add about 1,000 seats for basketball, bringing it up to 4,000, but will also have conference rooms, and will be able to host a variety of meetings, conventions and concerts,” he said.
“And we are strategically-placed. We’re near the airport; on one hand we’re looking down the river toward the Shell cracker plant, and everything surrounding it, and on the other hand we’re looking toward Pittsburgh, and the innovation—maybe Amazon—going on there.”
Howard said the university is also dedicated to improving the students’ academic experiences and outcomes—as well as staff and administrative performance—through predictive analytics, or as he called it, “big data.”
“We can use it to say to a new nursing student that their grade on the second test in their first semester is very important in terms of gauging success,” he said.
“We are also rebuilding our Business Communications curriculum to ensure our graduates thrive in the 21st century, because—here’s an interesting stat—90 percent of university provosts polled said they believe their graduates are ready for the workplace. Only 15 percent of business leaders said they were.”
Following his remarks chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams thanked Howard for his presentation and for holding multiple seminars for chamber members on doing business with the university. She also happily welcomed 18 new members who have joined the chamber since April.
“Also, we normally don’t have a PowerBreakfast in July, but our longtime supporter Sen. Bob Casey asked if he could speak to us—so, of course we said yes,” she said. “So, mark your calendars for a special breakfast meeting with Sen. Casey, July 9.”
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