The University of Akron will use a $1 million gift from the J.M. Smucker Co. to help improve students’ leadership.
The gift, to be distributed over four years, is the third-largest to the UA College of Business Administration, following a donation from Gary and Karen Taylor of Info- Cision Management to establish a direct marketing institute in their names, and a donation from Benjamin and Nancy Suarez of Suarez Corp. Industries to establish the Applied Marketing Research Laboratories in their names.
Ravi Krovi, dean of UA’s business college, said the Smucker gift will help honors students and business students “hit the ground running from Day One.”
The UA business college revamped its curriculum last fall to emphasize leadership, Krovi said. The changes, which include new courses, were based on feedback from about 230 Northeast Ohio business leaders who advise university faculty and administrators.
“We asked ourselves what kinds of students we want to produce,” Krovi said. “We want to produce students who are specialists but have a holistic sense.”
He said businesses want employees who can work in teams, relate to others, navigate conflict and communicate — traits apparently shared by the Smucker company in Orrville.
“At Smucker, ethical leadership is one of our core values, and we firmly believe that responsible people produce exceptional results,” Smucker spokeswoman Maribeth Badertscher said.
The gift will establish the Institute for Leadership Advancement to educate and train future leaders.
The institute will offer for-credit and not-for-credit courses and programs for UA honors students, undergraduates in business and M.B.A. candidates.
Krovi said that will include experiential learning projects, in which students tackle and try to solve challenges, as well as campuswide forums and workshops on problems that business people face.
Krovi said business leaders also want employees with analytic skills and who understand business beyond the narrow focus of a specialty, such as marketing.
“They want individuals who are not just technologically savvy but who have a data-driven, analytical mindset,” Krovi said. They don’t want to spend money on training and education that should have been provided in college.
Meanwhile, Krovi said this year’s business graduates will do about as well as last year’s graduates in the competitive job market. That means about two-thirds have been placed in industry jobs or graduate school. The average salary of those employed is $46,000, he said.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.