Millsaps, Parkway Properties Partner on Successful Projects

By Anderson, S J

The Else School of Management at Millsaps College strives to produce business leaders who go on to become leaders in their communities, as well as national and world leaders. This mission is accomplished through teacher-scholars who provide students an academically rigorous business education. That education is strengthened by the critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, ethical awareness and communication skills that the liberal arts college offers.

Established in 1979, the Else School of Management actually has roots that extend back to 1941 when the first bachelor of arts degree with a major in economics was awarded. In 1974, the bachelor of business administration degree was added, and when the school of management was organized, the curriculum was expanded to include a master of business administration degree. The master of accountancy degree was added in 1994.

In addition to teaching, faculty of the Else School engage in research and professional activities, and students at the school participate in intern programs in top businesses around the country. One of those businesses is located in Jackson, and has developed a strong relationship with the school.

Parkway Properties Inc. is a self-administered real estate investment trust specializing in the operation, leasing, acquisition, and ownership of office properties. Parkway owns or has an interest in 69 office properties located in 11 states with approximately 14.1 million square feet of leasable space as of June 5, 2008.

For the second time, it has been named one of the 50 Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in America. The list was announced at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Conference this summer in Chicago. The annual list, now in its fifth year, ranks the top 25 small and top 25 medium-sized companies in America that use smart people management strategies to develop successful organizations with highly productive and satisfied workforces.

Longstanding relationship

Naomi Freeman, director of admission and alumni affairs for the Else School, said that the school has had a longstanding relationship with Parkway Properties.

“They hire many of our graduates, and many of our students work as interns at the company. That’s really significant, because they have interns from all across the country who work for them. The internship provides a very high quality of experience to the students.”

Freeman said that another strong connection is Will Flatt, the CFO of Parkway Properties, who earned his undergraduate degree from Millsaps, and now serves on the Else School’s board of directors. “We couldn’t ask for a better partner in preparing our students for the real world. The fact that our students have this outstanding company in their own backyard means they don’t have to go away to have a great internship experience.”

Mutual benefits

Ray Grubbs, professor of management for the school, said that the relationship with Parkway has been going on for over a decade.

“Steve Rogers, the CEO of the company, and his senior management staff have continually given us substantive projects to work on that have major strategic importance to the company. While their folks are working internally on the analysis, I have groups in my strategic management class work on the project for 14 weeks. That gives the students real-world experience while providing Parkway with an outside, fresh look on things.”

Grubbs said that the benefit to him and his students is that he can’t duplicate that kind of work in the classroom. “It gives the MBA students real life problems and I couldn’t possibly model that in the classroom. When they are finished, the students present their work to the senior management group, who in turn ask the student the really difficult questions that their intimate inside knowledge of the company allows them to ask. It’s a great educational opportunity for the students. Pm not aware of any other MBA program that puts students in the field with a company like Parkway.”

‘It is achievable’

One of those students is Charlsie Estes, who is an MBA graduate student at the Else School while working full time at Parkway Properties.

“I’ve been at Parkway for about a year, and in the program at Else for two years. I’m a working mother, so I am enrolled in night classes, working towards my MBA. The program is ideal for me, because I can work it around my schedule,” said Estes. “While I may not finish the program as fast as some other students, the best part for me is knowing that it is achievable.”

She works as a financial analyst at Parkway, where she is involved in corporate finance and investor relations. “I had worked with International Paper in Memphis, and my husband was transferred to Jackson with his job. I enrolled in the Else School of Management, and I’m pleased to say that Millsaps was key in connecting me with Parkway.”

Sarah Clark, senior vice president for strategic planning and investor relations for Parkway Properties, has been a vital part of the company’s relationship with the school since the beginning. “It’s certainly been a good partnership for us. We work with other schools as well, but it’s most convenient with Millsaps because they are local. Their students are so strong, with most either in or having been in the working world, so they have that real world experience.” Clark said that with certain projects, their staff can tend to get tunnel vision. “You can only look at something so long, and when the students at Millsaps work on something, they bring inquiring minds with no pre-conceived notions. And it’s a great resume-builder for them as well.”

Clark said that the presentation the students make to members of the senior management team gives them a good opportunity to evaluate the students. “We can see what kind of talent they have when it comes to presentation skills, and that’s something you can’t tell by simply looking at a grade point average.”

The topics for the projects the students work on for Parkway range from technical to more “touchy-feely.” Clark said one of the first projects was more technical, where students analyzed how energy deregulation could affect the management of an office building. “Most recently, they worked on a ‘green’ topic, which has been in the news so much lately. They looked at the sustainability of buildings, and the LEED certification process. They examined what the costs were, how much time it took, and who was doing it, public or private owners.”

Copyright Mississippi Business Journal Jul 28, 2008

(c) 2008 Mississippi Business Journal, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.