New Effort to Harvest Greater Benefits from External Business Partnerships

By Lauren Riebs
April 18, 2017

Photo: Students bicycling on UC Davis campus

Bicyclists and pedestrians in the UC Davis Tercero Residence Area (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

When departments each approach a business like Whole Foods for a corporate sponsorship, the outcome is varied and the process cumbersome for companies. Now, the UC Davis Preferred Partnership Program, or UP3, will help leverage both its purchasing power and its marketing assets to create more impactful business partnerships.

“After the success of this model at other universities, we are excited to launch this program at UC Davis,” said Kelly Ratliff, Interim Leader of Finance, Operations and Administration, “We look forward to the new opportunities that it will create to directly benefit our students and other University stakeholders.”

The program aims to harvest greater student scholarships, internship opportunities and much needed funding to support the mission of the university. Currently, campus units arrange their own partnership contracts with outside businesses, leading to the university missing out on potential opportunities and undervaluing the power of the brand. By fostering more comprehensive, wide-reaching agreements with business partners, UP3 creates a cooperative for negotiating partnerships that benefit both the university and the businesses on a higher level.

The Financial Sustainability office worked with an Exploration Committee to develop, define and launch UP3, co-chaired by Teresa Gould and Ashwin Aravindakshan, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Management.

"Instead of every department operating independently against each other, this program promotes collaboration for the sake of university success,” said Teresa Gould, Interim Director of UP3, “It is in the best interest of the university to leverage all that we have to offer to get the most benefit back for our students.”   

As a prelude to UP3, in 2014, UC Davis’s Student Affairs team signed a 10-year contact with Pepsi, leveraging $10 million to support students through scholarships, sustainability projects, youth programs and more. UP3 aims to build on this approach and is actively identifying other key industries that fit both UC Davis’ strengths and need. UP3 is currently in the process of reviewing coffee provider options.

In addition to creating business partnerships that offer better benefits, this program will also be responsible for approving each new business partner and ensuring they are aligned with the university mission and values.

“Our business partners reflect on the university, just as the university reflects on our partners,” said Joseph DeAngelo, student and controller for the Associated Students. “This program will develop relationships with reputable companies that reflect our values as a public institution devoted to higher education.”

Partnership programs work – just ask UC Berkeley, who was the model for the UC Davis program. After launching in 2015, UC Berkeley’s University Partnership Program is thriving. For example, Berkeley and Peet's Coffee, founded in 1966 in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, recently agreed on a 10-year, $8 million partnership that will support the university’s commitment to enhancing the educational experience of UC Berkeley students while benefiting campus programming. (Read Berkeley News.)

As UP3 launches, it plans to look into new potential business partners such as preferred food providers, airlines and insurance providers. 

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Lauren Riebs is a student news editor for the UC Davis Division of Finance, Operations and Administration.