Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith Wows TSU Students on Success, Corporate Culture and Leadership; Discusses Partnership Opportunities with University Officials

Donnie Smith, Tyson Foods President and CEO, speaks to students at TSU on Wednesday. (Photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)

(TSU News Service) – Developing corporate partnerships and relationships with industry leaders have been at the core of Dr. Glenda Glover’s vision since becoming president of Tennessee State University nearly two years ago.

This has included visits and talks with major corporations and businesses and invitations to their leaders to visit the TSU campus to see the kinds of preparations students are receiving to be ready for the job market.

“This is necessary not just because we want these corporations to give to the University, but it also helps to expose our students to industry’s best as well as offer them opportunities to develop job-ready skills through internships, cooperative assistantships, scholarships and employment opportunities,” Dr. Glover said.

President Glenda Glover and Tyson Foods President and CEO Donnie Smith meet with Tom Joyner Foundation scholarship recipients following the check presentation. From left are, Bria Monk, Tyson CEO Smith, Kourtney Daniels, President Glover and David Conner. (Photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)

And today, TSU students received a good dose of exposure and lecture on corporate culture and leadership when the President and Chief Executive Officer of Tyson Foods, Inc., a $42 billion, Fortune 500 Arkansas-based company, visited and spent an entire day interacting with students, administrators, faculty and staff on the main campus.

Donnie Smith, whose visit also included the presentation of scholarships to three TSU students, in a partnership with the Tom Joyner Foundation, said his visit was intended to broaden existing relationship with TSU and explore areas in which student preparation in agriculture and science are more aligned with Tyson’s needs.

“We want to continue to build the relationship deeper by developing a streamline of talents that is suited to our company’s needs,” said Smith, who added that about 12 TSU students have interned at Tyson in the last two years, while another was fully employed with the company.

In a meeting earlier in Dr. Glover’s office with senior administration members, President Glover welcomed Smith and his team, which included Holly Bourland, Corporate Recruitment Manager for Professional Employment.

The TSU team emphasized that student preparation remains the main focus of the University, “because TSU wants to have a broad footprint” on industry by putting out students with job-ready skills, and Tyson could be a major partner in that area.

“Our students are involved in cutting-edge research in many areas of agricultural production and food security that could be useful to your company,” Dr. Glover told the Tyson executives.

“We are doing breakthrough research on our campus,” added Dr. Lesia Crompton-Young, chief research officer and associate vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs. “If you see the kinds of research we are involved in you will find that we are doing things that surely correlate with what Tyson’s needs are.”

A visit and tour of the University’s new Agricultural Biotechnology Research Building provided the Tyson visitors a closer look at some of the cutting-edge research the University officials spoke about.

“This visit is a great opportunity for us,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, following a meeting with the Tyson president. “We are trying to connect student and research to corporate needs because we want our research to be relevant to the market needs.”

In a gathering with Business students, the Tyson CEO spoke about corporate leadership, understanding the needs of “team members” (employees), and how to stay ahead of the competition.

“At Tyson we like to win, but for us winning is to make great food and helping those in need,” said Smith, adding that hunger relief is a major part of what Tyson does.

On corporate culture, Smith reminded the student about what he called his five “Is” and three “Rs.”

“To be successful you must have ‘integrity,’ be ‘intelligent,’ ‘innovative,’ have ‘interpersonal skills’ and you must be ‘inspirational.’ To achieve these, you must learn to develop ‘relationships,’ be ‘resilient’ and ‘result’ oriented,” smith said.

At a luncheon with Dr. Glover, along with her Cabinet and deans, the Tyson group saw PowerPoint presentations of offerings and programs in the College of Business, and the College of Engineering.

Prior to the presentations, the Tyson chief executive presented a check for $7,500 to Briar Monk, a senior Agricultural Science major with a 3.65 GPA from Little Rock, Arkansas; Kourtney Daniels, a sophomore Food Biosciences and Technology major with a 4.0 GPA from Chicago; and David Connor, a junior Agricultural Science major with a 3.42 GPA from Birmingham, Alabama.

The money, with each student receiving $2,500, is the result of a partnership between Tyson Foods and the Tom Joyner Foundation called the TScholars Project, to offer scholarships and internship opportunities to selected students majoring in Agriculture and Business at four historically black colleges and universities. The schools, TSU, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, were selected because of their proximity to Tyson company facilities.

According to the Interim Director of the Career Development Center at TSU, Tina Reed, each scholarship recipient will receive a summer 2015 internship at Tyson Foods.

Before leaving the TSU campus, the CEO also met with an array of students in different disciplines in Poag Auditorium, where he reiterated his views on corporate culture and leadership.

Other University officials who participated in meetings with the Tyson CEO and his team include: Dr. Mark Hardy, vice president for Academic Affairs; Jean Jackson, vice president for Administration; Cynthia Brooks, vice president for Business and Finance; Dr. John Cade, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Support Services; Dr. Alisa Mosley, associate vice president for Academic Affairs; Robin Tonya Watson, assistant vice president for Institutional Advancement; Kelli Sharpe, assistant vice president for Public Relations and Communications; Laurence Pendleton, University Counsel; and Dr. Cheryl Green, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

Also attending today’s meetings were: Dr. Millicent Lownes-Jackson, dean of the College of Business; and Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College Engineering.


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