Catawba and N.C. Research Campus launch business development partnership

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2017

SALISBURY — A Catawba College information systems class is creating a searchable database to help the Kannapolis-based North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) and the scientists at its eight university research centers target their business development efforts to companies in need of nutrition research.

The students, all from Catawba’s Ketner School of Business, will spend their spring semester on the task. They are enrolled in Dr. Pamela Thompson’s information systems planning and project management class, and will work in tandem with NCRC’s Business Development Director Chris Ervin as they develop the database and dashboard.

Ervin, himself a 1983 Catawba alumnus from Catawba’s Ketner School of Business, looked to his alma mater to tap students worthy of the task.

“In its simplest form, the partnership merges academic learning with industry application,” Ervin commented. “The Catawba students are being provided a real life experience that will improve their marketability while fulfilling a core business need of the NCRC.”

When phase one of the project is completed at the end of April, it will provide those on the Kannapolis campus with a deeper understanding of the nutrition research landscape and the companies that are in the space that may be interested in partnering with the scientists located on the NCRC. Based on Catawba students output, NCRC will build and refine their marketing plan to drive research dollars and product commercialization.

“The database will give us insights into the corporations that want to invest in nutrition research,” said Mark Spitzer, vice president of Castle & Cooke North Carolina Operations at the NCRC. He added, “Catawba will be part of a five-tiered process for the NCRC Development Recruitment Process.”

Catawba students involved in the database development include Rodney Beaty, Russell Brown, Austin Humphries, Crystal Reyes, Brad Smethurst, Jordan Taylor and Zackary Thompson.

“It’s not just one class doing a project,” explained Catawba Dean of the Ketner School of Business Jay Abraham. “They’re getting something started that will build the foundation for a three-to-five year continuous improvement plan. The database will be built upon year after year.”

Eventually, another group of Catawba marketing students will work with the team at NCRC to develop collateral materials that will be used to market the science, equipment and expertise available at the Kannapolis campus.

For now, the Catawba students see the database project, which will be cloud-hosted for easy access and collaboration, as an opportunity. They will utilize Zoho Project as their project management tool.

“It’s a lot better than doing something out of the book,” explained student Jordan Taylor. “We get something to do in the real world.”

Dr. Thompson will be guiding the students through the formal planning and implementation process for the database which will include both traditional and agile planning methodologies.

The students formally outlined the scope of the project and presented it to the NCRC team in a Feb. 24 meeting: “Our team will conduct research that results in the development of a database with the purpose of documenting the competitive set of research institutes and centers in the nutrition industry.“

And the completed database will be anything but static, according to Catawba student Rusty Brown. It will evolve and change over time based on changes in the marketplace and the research. New data can be entered, new relationships indicated between entities, with important milestones noted in the database’s calendaring feature.

As outlined in the Feb. 24 meeting, planned deliverables from the Catawba class include: a business case; a charter; a team contract; a scope statement; a schedule; a cost baseline; status reports; presentation of final project; a final project report; and a lessons-learned report.

For more information on NCRC, visit