Amazon, Haslam family gift $1.5 million to UT's College of Business for professor position
Amazon and the Haslam family are making a significant donation to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's Haslam College of Business to establish a new professor position.
Amazon and the Haslam family each donated $750,000, for a total of $1.5 million, to create an endowed distinguished professorship in business analytics and data science, according to a press release from Amazon.
It's the third major investment Amazon is making in East Tennessee after announcing it will open two facilities here in 2022, creating hundreds of jobs.
The college offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in business analytics.
Steve Mangum, dean of the Haslam College of Business, said this professorship will open up more opportunities for students when they study at UT and after they leave the university.
It will also help grow the faculty of the college, which needs to expand. Enrollment in the College of Business has increased roughly 50% over the last several years, Mangum said.
UT wants to recruit faculty who can provide a quality education for students entering the workforce. The donation and creation of a new position is "a very strong corporate endorsement of what we're about," he said.
“We are very excited to continue developing the relationship between Amazon and the Haslam College of Business,” Mangum said. “We find it to be a natural partnership, combining our faculty’s expertise in data analytics with the rapidly growing industry demand for graduates with such technical skills."
Holly Sullivan, Amazon's vice president of worldwide economic development, is a UT graduate. She also serves on the Haslam College of Business advisory board, and said the data science and business analytics program at UT is unique and "a really good fit for Amazon but also other companies looking to recruit from the University of Tennessee."
"I think the University of Tennessee provides students not only with the educational coursework, but also there's a great spirit of volunteerism ... having been a graduate at the University of Tennessee, I left it just as a very well-rounded person," Sullivan said. "I had the education, the skill set, the strong work ethic, but also a community spirit that I think is really important for youth to take into their next career path."
There are over 90 tenure-track faculty members in the College of Business, of which about 20 are endowed professors, Mangum said.
The professor who holds the position will be given a salary supplement and resources for research and travel, Mangum said. That enables the professor to attend more conferences or conduct more research, which could help attract more students and faculty to UT.
"It also opens up opportunities in terms of relationships with companies like Amazon and beyond, because I know a lot of these companies are looking for multi-dimensional relationships," Mangum said. "Part of it is the ability to access high-quality students, but another part of it is to be able to access the best and brightest minds out there as well."
With high-quality faculty and students, and partnerships with companies like Amazon, UT is more likely to be approached by companies interested in research projects or executive education programs, Mangum said.
"Any time you're able to label yourself as being associated with the very best companies around the country, that certainly has an impact on your reputation," Mangum said.
Former Gov. Bill Haslam announced plans to bring Amazon to Tennessee in 2018, with an operations center in downtown Nashville and plans for 5,000 jobs at that center.
“It’s not often that a company goes above and beyond in this way, doing more than they originally said they would do when first establishing their operation in Tennessee,” Haslam said in the press release. “Amazon is investing in our communities in a way that will both create an enormous return on investment and benefit thousands of Tennesseans.”
Sullivan said Amazon views this professorship as a long-term commitment, with big impacts for Tennessee.
"We look at this as a long-term commitment, not only the talent pipeline in Tennessee, but a long-term relationship with the University of Tennessee," Sullivan said.
The Haslams, long-time donors to UT, donated $40 million to the College of Business last year. Those funds were earmarked for new faculty, funding faculty research and creating new opportunities for current and incoming students.
Amazon delivery center coming to Knoxville
Last week, Amazon announced it would open a delivery center at the former Knoxville Center Mall property. The facilities are scheduled to open in 2022, creating hundreds of part-time and full-time jobs.
Delivery stations are the last stop for Amazon packages, which are put together at Amazon fulfillment and sortation centers. There are four other delivery stations in located in Tennessee.
Amazon announced in February it would build a $200 million fulfillment center in Alcoa, creating 800 jobs when that facility opens in late 2022.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Monica Kast
The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org
Published March 25, 2021