Belk Inc. and UNC Charlotte announced Tuesday that the retail giant is giving the university $5 million over five years to boost the schools efforts to teach business innovation and the use of data analysis in marketing.
The gift to the Belk College of Business will help establish an endowed professorship in business innovation and an endowed chair in marketing analytics, and will groom business students for careers in those fields. The gift will support research in marketing, customer analytics, customer relationship management and strategic innovation.
At a reception at the UNCCs Center City campus uptown, Chancellor Philip Dubois called it the biggest single gift the business school has ever received. He noted that members of the Belk family have long played significant roles in the development of the university and the business school, which bears the familys name.
This gift not only reinforces that very special relationship, he said, but marks a new era in corporate-university partnerships for the college and the university.
Belk officials said they welcomed the opportunity to help the school groom students who can help businesses like theirs understand the rapidly changing digital marketplace.
This is an incredibly exciting day for Belk, said the companys president and chief operating officer, John Belk. Our world is changing. Our customers are changing. Business is changing deeply.
Steven Ott, dean of the college, said the gift will help the business school recruit high-quality students. It will allow the school to identify top undergraduate business students and funnel them into a fast-track graduate program now being developed that will focus on data science and business analytics.
The endowed chair in marketing analytics will help develop a learn-work-hire program that will prepare students to go directly into the retail industry. The business innovation professor will create a curriculum and teach courses on innovation.
The announcement comes at a time of heightened debate in North Carolina about how well colleges are preparing students for todays job market. Gov. Pat McCrory recently sparked controversy when he questioned whether graduates with majors such as gender studies would get hired and suggested taxpayers shouldnt subsidize degrees that dont meet the needs of businesses.
That isnt likely to be a problem for the coursework Belk is underwriting. The effort is tied so closely to business needs that Belk staff will teach alongside the innovation professor, and the professor will serve as a liaison to the company.
Tim Belk, chairman and CEO of the company, noted that the gift comes as the retail giant prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
We are honoring our heritage while celebrating the future, he said. This contribution honors our decades-long support of education, while it provides the foundation of future growth for the universitys Belk College of Business.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less