MTSU alumna Paula Mansfield remembers the first time she stepped foot on the Blue Raider campus as an undergraduate and marvels at the transformation she's witnessed in the years since.
And with more than three decades of "relationship building" in the financial services industry, Mansfield wants to help continue the transformation at her alma mater through her new role as the director of strategic partnerships in the Office of University Advancement.
On the job now for three months, Mansfield said she was attracted to the position "by the potential to create a roadmap where industry and the university could intersect for mutual gain" by tapping into the unique resources that both offer.
"I have come to appreciate the value of the university and see the potential," she said. "I see how partnerships can be critical to success, and now I have the benefit of being a single point of contact and a resource for these industries to engage with the university."
During her years as an executive with First Tennessee Bank, Mansfield worked with a variety of industries within her client base, ranging from medical to legal to entrepreneurial to manufacturing. Such experience makes Mansfield "the ideal person" to provide the strong customer service and management skills that business and industry leaders expect, said Joe Bales, vice president for University Advancement.
"The creation of a new position dedicated to addressing the needs of the business community allows us to more fully execute our mission and will expand the services we have available to the corporate community," Bales said.
"While we've long been the primary provider of B.S.-degreed graduates for the Midstate's workforce, creating this new emphasis on strategic partnerships and business relationships will better showcase our ability to support applied research and employee education and development."
Mansfield said she's been listening to university deans and top administrators as well as industry and corporate leaders about potential collaborations, while also learning where the resources within the university are located. The goal is to forge partnerships that are mutually beneficial, leading to sustained funding in the form of donations, sponsorships, research grants and student employment.
Her new role will allow Mansfield to assist companies in areas such as student recruitment, joint research projects, student-designed projects such as capstone work, technology commercialization, faculty consulting, professional workforce development, using lab space and campus facilities and intellectual exchange for problem solving.
"I feel like I'm probably going to be one of the biggest advocates for the students on campus. They are our talent and that's what employers want access to, our top talent," she said. "I will be their advocate into the corporate community."
Mansfield's ties to and knowledge about MTSU run deep, having served as past president of the National Alumni Association. She's also previously chaired committees for special projects and search committees and served on various other university committees such as the Quest for Student Success and the MTSU Foundation.
"What we have to do is to showcase the value of the university," she said. "People and companies are willing to pay for value."