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An ongoing challenge: Finding the right performance metrics for industry engagement

Excerpted from the June 2024 issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. UIDP members can view the entire issue here.

The metrics used to measure the performance of university industry engagement offices will naturally vary from campus to campus based on the unique values, strategies, and goals of each institution. There are also differences in organizational structure — many shops fall under advancement, while others may be under research.

For those that fall under the “advancement” umbrella, it is not surprising that total dollars brought in are a key element of the metrics equation. And yet even in such cases, engagement managers favor, and would rather be measured by, more holistic values.

“We live within the advancement world,” shares Kelsey S. Evans, executive director for corporate relations at UT Austin. “That’s great in so many ways, but it’s also a little bit restrictive. [The metrics] do not always allow the full picture of corporate relationships and partnerships.”

Leah Aschmann, director of Rice University’s Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, also notes that a key objective for her is securing philanthropic and grant support. “We typically bring in about 7% of the total amount raised, which is not too shabby,” she says. She is quick to point out, however, that other metrics influence her daily work much more heavily than what is “counted.” “Our first — or primary — objective as a team is to build holistic, mutually beneficial industry partnerships across Rice University,” she declares.

At the University of Colorado Boulder, when it comes to metrics “we sit within the advancement team, so dollars are important,” says Ryan Nalty, managing senior director of industry relations, while also noting that “we’re in flux on that.”

And then there’s the brand new corporate relations office at the University of Denver. “They brought me here to start a corporate relations shop focused on holistic engagement,” says Shawn Farrell, assistant vice chancellor of corporate relations, who came on board about nine months ago. And even though the office also falls under advancement, Farrell is in negotiations with upper management to develop metrics that more accurately reflect the aforementioned holistic vision.

Excerpted from the June 2024 issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. UIDP members can access the complete article and the entire issue here. Other practitioners may subscribe to receive the UIEA newsletter at