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Focus on capstones can be critical to building and strengthening long-term industry partnerships

Excerpted from the October 2023 issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. UIDP members can view the entire issue here.

Capstone programs have become a vital component of industry engagement at many research universities, but initial successes can sometimes be fleeting. And while capstones can and do lead to more strategic partnerships involving other areas of engagement, that expansion is not a given without persistent cultivation. What are the keys to long-term success and growth of such programs? Engagement leaders agree that a strong relationship with industry partners is critical, but maintaining those relations when it comes to capstones can often require some creative thinking and out-of-the-box strategies.

“To me, it’s really all about building strong relationships with these companies,” says David S. Eady, director of industry engagement, Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We are specifically focused on sustainability, so our relationship is typically with the chief sustainability officer or director of sustainability. To have those relationships, to come to understand the challenges and opportunities they need to achieve their strategic objectives within their companies, it is helpful in the beginning to talk about capstone projects supporting their objectives.”

“At the highest level, it’s all about finding creative ways to engage industry,” adds Nathan K. Utz, vice president, Office of Industry Partnerships, Purdue University. “A capstone is a beautiful blend of a unique way to engage industry while providing very important experiential opportunities for students. This is win-win in which our students develop real-world skills for problem solving and industry gets to interact and recruit talent.”

Excerpted from the October 2023 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