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UM Seeks to Increase Partnerships with New Council, Director
Hughes Miller, director of industry giving and engagement, (standing) speaks to the Industry Engagement Council at the University of Mississippi. This inaugural council is working to build and expand relationships between private industry and the university, creating partnerships that will be beneficial to both entities as well as better prepare students to be leaders and entrepreneurs.

The University of Mississippi’s newly formed Industry Engagement Council (IEC) is poised to maximize relationships between the university and private industry, creating strategic alliances that are beneficial to both.

“Industry can tap into the knowledge base of our faculty while in turn providing opportunities for our students and graduates who will ultimately put their higher education to use improving their communities,” said Hughes Miller, director of Industry Giving and Engagement in the Office of University Development – a new university position he filled in 2019.

Miller is working to ensure UM is proactive in its efforts to engage industry in all sectors.

“Where other universities label these efforts as ‘corporate relations,’ I championed for the Ole Miss community to instead use ‘industry engagement.’ This reflects not only our vision for holistic partnerships but is also inclusive of Mississippi’s diverse economic landscape,” he said.

Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said external engagement is crucial to the continued success of both the university and its students.

“The partnerships we create with industries give us opportunities for growth,” Wilkin said. “These collaborations also ensure that we are preparing our students for the world of work and developing them as leaders and entrepreneurs.”

Mississippi industries such as Viking Range in Greenwood and Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula have recently or are now partnered with UM’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

At each plant, Ole Miss students were divided into groups and tasked with solving a specific problem on the respective factory floors. Students at Ingalls, for example, addressed damage prevention when installing sensitive communications cables on U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers. At Viking Range, a quartet of students looked at increasing the effectiveness of a 15-ton punch-press machine the company uses to fabricate metal.

As a result of this partnership and the collaboration fostered by the IEC, the university now has ongoing discussions with Ingalls and Viking regarding ways to empower workforce and community development for the region.

“Students benefit from the experience by creating presentations for company executives and CME professors, while manufacturers gain insight into how the university is preparing the next generation of industry leaders,” said Matt O’Keefe, CME executive director and UM professor of chemical engineering.

In addition, other programs are working to partner with industry. The UM School of Law has placed students at companies including FedEx, C-Spire, Yates Construction, Pfizer and others for its summer Business Law Fellows program. In his first year on the Oxford campus, School of Engineering Dean Dave Puleo has traveled around the country visiting with companies such as Ergon, Entergy and ExxonMobil to see how he can grow industry engagement in the school.

“As a proponent of progressing along the university-industry partnership continuum, I am excited to see our increasing efforts in this area,” Puleo said. “Industry engagement runs through each of the educational, research and service missions of the School of Engineering.”

The UM School of Business Administration’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is working with corporate leaders such as Benjamin Huston, CEO of Carvana; Bill Rayburn, chair and CEO of mTrade; and Edith Kelly-Green, former chief sourcing officer at FedEx Corp. and a Lenny’s Sub Shop franchisee, connecting them with student entrepreneurs through events like the REDe Entrepreneurship Summit. With a different focus each year, the REDe Summit encourages and enhances entrepreneurial endeavors among Ole Miss students with varied academic backgrounds.

“An important aspect of industry engagement is thought leadership, in which we not only connect faculty expertise to industry but also gain valuable industry insights that can inspire students and guide the university as it works to be a strong partner for industry,” Miller said.

Going forward, the IEC will encourage industry leaders to sponsor research projects, co-ops and internships; speak to classes; mentor students; and fund scholarships and programs — all in support of higher education and community enhancement.

“I’m excited for the momentum we’ve built over the past few months and look forward to many successes in 2020,” Miller said.

For more information on UM’s industry engagement efforts, contact Hughes Miller at 662-915-2885 or To support the university financially, visit


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