ePartners Program Benefits Local Companies, Hundreds of Students

February 26, 2001

In todays technology-driven market, one of the biggest challenges facing companies is finding and recruiting the best and brightest tech-savvy employees. For recent university graduates with degrees in computer science, the obstacle is finding a company that provides the best opportunities.

Both of these challenges are being met through a university-industry partnership at North Carolina State University called ePartners.

Launched last August, ePartners is a program of the College of Engineerings Department of Computer Science. It gives industrial partners recruiting assistance, access to research and opportunities to participate in student projects. In exchange, NC States 1,286 computer science students gain first-hand exposure to high-tech companies in the region and get funding for activities such as attending professional conferences and seminars. Students also benefit from equipment improvements in the department funded by the companies.

“A few years ago, the computer science department looked for ways to distinguish itself from other computer science departments, and we decided the best way to do that would be to concentrate on areas of emerging technology like e-commerce and optical networking; and to build relationships with industry,” said ePartners Director Carmen Brennan.

“Companies find that the ePartners program is a really good way to connect with a targeted group of students,” she said.

Ten companies have joined the ePartner program so far. They are John Deere; Nortel Networks; Southeast Interactive Technology Funds; EMC; Network Appliance; ABB; SAS Institute; Make Systems; HiddenMind Technology; and Cisco Systems. Companies pay an annual membership contribution of between $2,000 and $25,000 to participate. Contributions are based on the companys number of employees.

A firm participating at the highest level, referred to as a Super ePartner, gets to participate in two senior design course projects in which it presents real-world problems to student teams, which then set out to find solutions.

One of this semesters senior design course challenges comes from John Deere. Students involved with the project are working with a team from John Deere to develop a graphical toolkit for sales and marketing performance decision support. The tool, as it is now used by John Deere, generates sales reports about a particular John Deere product. However, the reports are in a tabular format that makes them sometimes difficult to interpret by sales management. The toolkit that the senior design team has been asked to design involves developing a set of Java applets that employ a variety of graphing techniques. It will incorporate different visualization techniques such as simple graphs, geographic mapping, and demographic mapping to help sales management interpret the information quickly and easily.

Super ePartners also sponsor events such as the departmental diploma ceremonies, alumni newsletters and programing competitions.

Companies participating at the ePartner level participate primarily through recruiting efforts such as a resume bank and an annual career connection event.

For more information about ePartners, check out its Web site at http://epartners.ncsu.edu.