Here's How One Foundation Is Preparing Business Students for an Uncertain Future

If the presidential campaign thus far has taught us anything, it's that Americans are rightfully concerned about the uncharted economic waters ahead.

An increasingly globalized and interconnected world makes workers vulnerable to events thousands of miles away. The manufacturing sector continues to stagnate. And rumblings of tariffs and trade wars threaten the free trade paradigm that has underpinned our economy since the end of the World War II.

How will universities prepare business students for this precarious future?

For one answer, we turn to Atlanta, where Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business received a $2 million gift to fund the Delta Student Success Center from the the Delta Air Lines Foundation. This new center will unite three units focused on developing business communication skills (the Career Advancement Center), accessing experiential learning opportunities (the Office of Undergraduate Assistance), and connecting with businesses for internships and job opportunities (the soon-to-be-launched Office of Experiential Learning).

The Office of Experiential Learning is the centerpiece of the consolidated Delta Student Success Center. It supports the development and delivery of "unique curricular and co-curricular programs" for students including Robinson’s Women Lead program and the Panther Accelerated Career Experience (PACE) course, along with its Panthers on Wall Street program for graduate and undergraduate students.

Add it all up, and Georgia State and Delta are putting their bets on the power of experiential learning, networking, and entrepreneurial training in a globalized world. In this sense, they're certainly not alone. We've seen similar development across the higher education space lately, most notably in Vermont, where a $20 million gift from alumni Steven Grossman funds three endowed academic positions—the Steven Grossman Chairs in Entrepreneurship, Finance, and Sustainable Business.

Then there's a slew of other entrepreneurial-related gifts, including a $5 million gift from J. Fielding Miller and his wife Kim Grice Miller to create a school of entrepreneurship at East Carolina University (ECU), profiled here.

As for the imminent byproduct of Delta's gift, the forthcoming Office of Experiential Learning will "allow us to turbocharge the immersive educational experiences we provide Robinson students through these signature programs by expanding our already extensive network of business partnerships," said Dean Richard Phillips.

All of which brings us to the Delta Air Lines Foundation. Formed in 1968 to enhance Delta’s charitable giving, the grantmaker focuses on education, health and wellness, arts and culture and diversity. 

For your further consideration, check out our take on the related trend involving alumni gifts earmarked for entrepreneurship here.