The university is no stranger to committees. We spend a lot of time and effort in this space. We banter around an overwhelming number of great ideas, many of which are challenging to implement in our decentralized academic environment.

 Some ideas are worth the effort.

Photo of Marvin Parnes

Marvin Parnes

Marvin found that to be true, and he is proud to have been involved in the committee that recommended the establishment of the first comprehensive university-wide Business Engagement Center in higher education.

“We realized we needed to have a clearinghouse for industry relations. We needed one point of contact, like a portal. We needed to create what became the BEC,” Parnes shares. This essential concept was distilled from a collaborative committee focused on exploring how U-M could be a leader in tech transfer and sponsored research in groundbreaking ways.

Developing the BEC involved a significant amount of change in policies, perception and structure. It took years, and required winning buy-in from a number of deans, administrators, executive officers, and faculty members, as well as industry and community leaders.

In 2007 – six years after starting the conversation – the BEC was officially formed as a human portal to connect industry and academia at U-M. “It became a place that acknowledges universities as a part of the whole social economic enterprise. We needed to continually be looking for ways to make connections and be involved in civic engagement.”

A decade later, coming to visit the BEC is like coming home. “I’m delighted to see it thriving,” he confides. “I’m very pleased to see the growth by leadership to bring everyone together across campus. It’s gratifying to see that people can work so collaboratively and optimize the use of resources between schools, colleges and units – and maintain a high level of communication. Things continue to get more and more complex in terms of what companies want from the university. The structure of corporate philanthropy has changed and the process of educating faculty is also never ending. This is a pretty demanding world. The BEC continues to thrive and handle it all in stride. This is a great team here.”

About Marvin:

A social worker by trade, Marvin began his career at U-M as a counselor at the Counseling and Psychological Services before becoming the Assistant Director of Residence Education in the Housing Division.

Starting in 1988, Parnes served in a number of roles at the U-M Office of Research (UMOR), from the Associate Vice President for Research, Programs & Operations to the Director and Principal Investigator of the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

In addition to his efforts to establish the BEC, he was involved in the creation of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), the Program in Complex Systems, the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy (now the Economic Growth Institute), ArtsEngine, and led the development of eResearch.

In 2016, he finished his 41 year career at U-M as the Managing Director of the Institute for Social Research.