Connecting Campus and Commerce

How Jesse Torres of Texas State University creates win-win partnerships between industry and education

Over the past decade, the student population of Texas State University has grown by 48 percent, making it the fifth-largest university in the state. Along with the growth spurt have emerged opportunities to serve the university’s population with corporate partnerships. Jesse Torres, Texas State’s director of development of corporate relations, specializes in bringing industry and education together in a way that is beneficial to all parties involved.

“The university was bursting with favorable circumstances but wasn’t taking advantage of those key opportunities to create partnerships that would mutually support the corporations, the university, and the students,” says Torres, who joined the university in 2012. “That’s when I was brought on board.”

The type of partnership Torres facilitates is exemplified by a relationship he recently built with University Federal Credit Union (UFCU). Torres used his resources to connect the financial services provider with key campus individuals who could help it better understand the needs of the Texas State campus community. UFCU’s goal was to build programs that would effectively serve the needs of the faculty, students, and staff. Torres was able to identify needs surrounding financial support for scholarships, campus-based organizations, and athletics. Thus, the programs created would allow UFCU the opportunity to sponsor high-profile events such as televised athletics or any event with high student and faculty participation.

President and CEO of University Federal Credit Union Tony C. Budet put it this way: “As UFCU’s mission is to help strengthen higher education communities through shared values and high-impact relationships, we are proud to enter into this new partnership with Texas State University.” The partnering company, in this case UFCU, benefits from this relationship through brand enhancement, brand recognition, and by getting connected to a workforce pipeline.

Torres keeps his focus on corporations looking to enhance their brand visibility. By forming a partnership with Texas State University, a company demonstrates that it does more than just provide a service; it fosters research collaborations with faculty and promotes career opportunities for graduating students and alumni.

“As corporations flock to the Greater Austin area to expand or build corporate offices, Texas State proves to be an appealing partner,” Torres explains. He makes sure to offer partnerships that meet the needs of these corporations by providing access to the workforce pipeline, marketing, and research.

Torres says these partnerships benefit Texas State University just as much. “The campus community also gains brand enhancement, demonstrating that we’re not a regional college, we’re a national presence.”

Torres has defined and developed Texas State’s partnership program since he started. He is able to allocate funding to a number of programs by creating corporate partnerships with various departments within a corporation. He predicts that the partnership between Texas State University and UFCU will serve as a catalyst to create more multifaceted collaborations. “It is our first comprehensive, strategic partnership in that, it’s supporting a multitude of programs, research, and scholarships,” he says. “Now, our goal is to create similar contracts with other companies and demonstrate how investing in Texas State yields significant return on investment.”

These efforts, says Torres, also serve a purpose closer to his heart; fostering career growth in the Hispanic community. Texas State, with a Hispanic population of 30 percent, is the largest university in Texas that has been federally designated as a Hispanic-serving institution. “I’m out there visiting all of these corporations and creating contracts, and it’s painfully obvious that the Hispanic population in corporate America is extremely low compared with the actual population,” Torres says. Sitting on the board of his local Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting  (ALPFA) chapter in Austin, he sees that Latinos aren’t excluded from corporate America; “We’re just not producing enough graduates to fill those positions,” he says. “Only about 15 percent of Hispanics under age 25 have a college degree. Our university is helping change this by focusing on educating Hispanics, and our partnership program is increasing their visibility and opportunities in the workforce. Progress has been made.”