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Innovator Article

Orlando Harris Brings Corporate Relations to Next Level
Sponsor Projects to Give MBA Students Crucial Hands-on Experience

by Joanna Corman

Global corporations to agile start-ups that are looking to solve pressing business operations issues and strategic challenges have a new friend in Orlando Harris, who has joined the Graduate School of Management as director of corporate relations.

Harris brings more than 25 years of experience in business development, management and consulting at global companies. Drawing on that background in this new role, Harris is expanding existing relationships and building new bridges to the business community to provide MBA students with the most compelling and rewarding hands-on experiences.

This fall, second-year full-time MBA students will be the first to participate in the new core course, Integrated Management Project (IMP). Teams of five students will work on 20-week projects that Harris is designing and lining up
with sponsor companies. IMP is coupled with the Articulation and Critical Thinking (ACT) course, anchoring the School’s new IMPACT curriculum.

The new required core project course takes the success of the School’s MBA Consulting Center to the next level. For several years, students have taken a 10-week elective course, working in teams on consulting projects for dozens of firms, big and small, from many industries.

Now the student projects are doubling in length and Harris is traversing Northern California, especially the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s meeting potential corporate sponsors and aligning their needs with the expertise that UC Davis and MBA students can offer.

“It’s about taking the value that we bring and spreading it throughout the business community as a whole,” Harris says. “It’s not just a project for our sponsor companies. It goes a lot wider than that and ultimately, for us, to be recognized as a leading university for these types of partnerships.”

After graduating from Alabama A&M University with a bachelor of science in business and from the U.S. Army Quartermaster School, Harris started his career with IBM and then moved to Hewlett-Packard. He also ran American Express’ Western Region for four years, spent nearly five years with Gartner Inc. and about a decade with Xerox. He’s also been an independent consultant.

At a kick-off meeting last winter with a corporate sponsor and a student team, Harris quickly realized the project’s scale would go beyond the agreed timeframe and spoke up. It helped the company to more clearly define the scope, says Alok Sanghavi, a Bay Area MBA student and the team leader.

Sanghavi welcomes Harris’ new role and is looking forward to students having a greater choice of projects. “It’s not just the number of projects, but it’s also the quality of the projects,” he says. “Orlando can really make a difference.”