UMRF Ventures Inc. Receives National Award for Regional and Economic Development


August 31, 2018 - A University of Memphis Research Foundation Ventures Inc. program has received the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) 2018 Excellence and Innovation Award for Regional and Economic Development.

The award recognizes institutions that demonstrate excellence and innovation in their approach to student success, regional and economic development, international education, teacher education, and leadership in development and diversity.

"Many students are financially challenged, which has impacted UofM's graduation rates," said the AASCU in a statement announcing the award. "To combat these challenges, UofM founded UMRF Ventures Inc. to provide third-party IT service and support to corporations by hiring full-time undergraduate and graduate students. These student employees earn $15 per hour, which helps them with tuition and living expenses. The UofM hopes the program will not only improve its graduation rate, but will also create a talent pool to address employment gaps within Memphis."

UMRF Ventures is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Memphis Research Foundation. As a for-profit limited liability corporation, UMRF Ventures facilitates unique collaborations with corporations, agencies, and organizations that help to grow Memphis.

UMRF Ventures' first and largest client is FedEx Corp. It operates two FedEx Call Centers, one on the main campus and another at the UofM Lambuth in Jackson, Tenn. UMRF Ventures also launched an IT Command Center on campus in June, where 35 graduate students are working on data analytics and proactive problem solving alongside FedEx IT professionals.

"In our first year, we have increased our student employee numbers from 23 to 120, have increased our student payroll to over $100,000 per month, met our customers performance expectations, and our graduates are getting full-time jobs," said Tom Kadien, CEO of UMRF Ventures. "UMRF Ventures is an excellent business model."

By the end of the second year, it is projected that more than 300 students will be employed by UMRF Ventures.

"Before you outsource any white-collar or technical work to other locations, first contact your local university to explore a suitable win-win-win innovation structure that benefits local students by putting them to work," said Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, UofM executive vice president for Research & Innovation. "These students can give you superior work performance while they graduate on time, more professionally prepared for the workplace, and with minimal student debt. It is also imperative for modern universities to develop innovative partnership capabilities that bring meaningful work to campus for students."

The award will be presented Oct. 28 at the ASSCU annual meeting in Washington, D.C.