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Penn State University Case Study

The Challenge

Pennsylvania State University creates a new position, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Engagement. The role reports to both the Office of Research and the Office of Advancement and brings together individuals from corporate relations and industrial partnerships.

The complexities for this new position include: creating collaboration among different groups/individuals measured by different metrics, reimagining metrics for success, aligning disparate stakeholders, reporting to two individuals with differing yet complementary goals, and bringing knowledge and experience to the position around trends in broadening and deepening university-industry relationships across a complex research university.


The Approach

Higher Talent was retained by Pennsylvania State University to identify, engage, and recruit top talent from across the country. After the site visit, Higher Talent prepared a detailed and informative position prospectus, designed the candidate research strategy, and began proactively reaching out to potential candidates and individuals for networking.

The thinking behind candidate research included:

  • Who will have the skills and gravitas to work effectively across a multifaceted institution?
  • Where will this individual be currently?
    • We researched prospective candidates from the corporate world with experience working with universities on sponsored research activities and those in higher education institutions experienced in developing broad corporate engagement programs
  • Utilizing our network combined with original research, we reached out to more than 360 individuals, had informational and telephone screening calls with 18, personally interviewed 10, and presented six as Higher Talent recommended shortlist candidates including:
    • Two from industry
    • Four from research universities

The Result

Pennsylvania State University hired Melissa Erekson from Tulane University where she had built a strong and effective corporate engagement program, including buy-in and participation from key players, including research, development, career services, and industry partners.