University, international company partnered for campus exhibition
The array of corporate flags and cars that accompanied Toyota’s on-campus celebration were all part of a large campaign to announce the company’s plans for the future as it moves its North American headquarters to Plano.
What members of the UTD community may not realize, however, is that the partnership to host the event took over a year to set up.
Last February, Monique Wedderburn, the director of the UT Dallas Asia Center, was at a Japan-American Society event Simon Ngata, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Toyota North America, was attending. She took the opportunity to talk to the businessman about the possibility of coming to UTD.
“I just essentially approached him and asked if he could speak at the University of Texas at Dallas,” she said. “And he agreed.”
Wedderburn said as the director of the Asia Center, she thought it would be great for the university to get the opportunity to host Toyota since it will soon become a large part of the community when it opens its headquarters here next year.
Although Wedderburn made the initial contact with Toyota over a year ago, the agreement wasn’t made official until Ngata met with President Ad Interim Hobson Wildenthal, who extended Ngata a formal invitation just a few months ago.
Ever since the university officially welcomed Toyota, Wedderburn has been busy preparing UTD for the company’s visit.
This included getting multiple departments across campus involved, including members of UTD police to coordinate Toyota’s cars driving onto the campus mall, facilities management and members of the university’s media staff, along with employees from other departments.
“It takes a university to host an event at this level,” Wedderburn said.
Although the university did not receive any compensation for Toyota’s visit, Wedderburn said the company paid for all major expenses associated with their stay.
Additionally, she mentioned the possibility for future collaborations, like the one the university has with Texas Instruments, between UTD and Toyota stemming from the partnership.
“(We’ve) had a meeting with Toyota to begin to discuss what that partnership looks like at the university and from their words, there’s definitely some touch points, but again that conversation has just begun,” she said.
For Wedderburn, the hardest part of the endeavor was organizing all of these moving pieces and keeping the focus on the event.
“We wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just about bringing cars on campus, that the educational component was clearly laid out,” she said. “And if you look at all the placards that were beside each of the vehicles, (those were) clearly educational. So it’s not about just the car itself, it’s how do you create the technology behind the cars? So that aspect was critically important as meeting our educational needs as a university.”
Although the university has policies against solicitation on campus, Wedderburn said because Toyota was not directly selling any products and was focused on education, the exclusion did not apply to its visit.
“Toyota did not benefit much,” she said. “There was no dealership on campus, that wasn’t part of why we invited them on campus.”
As the opening of Toyota’s Plano headquarters draws closer, Wedderburn said she hopes the partnership between UTD and the company continues.
“We do a great job of just telling our story already, this just helps expand,” she said. “We need that for organizations to recognize how great our students are and just how great our organization is.”