Partnership Provides Scholarships

F: Higdon, Rodenberg, Erekson; B: DeLaGarza, McPhearson, Benningfield, Miller

Two students from Taylor County High School will soon be named Murakami Scholars, thanks to a new agreement between Eastern Kentucky University, Murakami Manufacturing and Taylor County Schools.

The program will forge an alliance between Murakami Manufacturing, a Tier 1 automotive supplier in Campbellsville, Taylor County Schools and EKU to provide a $1,000 annual scholarship and paid internship to help two graduates from Taylor County Schools attend and graduate from EKU’s applied engineering management program. The University will match the $1,000 scholarship provided by Murakami. The intent is to prepare the Murakami Scholars for possible full-time employment in an engineering position upon graduation.

The idea was born when EKU President Michael Benson received a LinkedIn message from Murakami USA President Michael Rodenberg. Rodenberg explained that it was becoming increasingly difficult to attract local talent in rural Kentucky, adding that if industry and academia could work together something unique could be established to resolve the problem. A subsequent cell phone conversation between Benson and College of Business and Technology Dean Thomas Erekson evolved into an opportunity to leverage home-grown experts, which eventually led to the “Murakami Model.”

 “Given the strong family ties in Kentucky, we developed a collaboration of attracting and developing local talent,” Erekson said. “Because of the work experience, the value of this scholarship can be $25,000 to $35,000 overall.”

Roger Cook, superintendent of Taylor County Schools, agrees. The school district will promote the program and assist in the selection of the two Murakami Scholars. Emphasis will be placed on strong college prep, especially in STEM areas.

Initially, rising seniors will be targeted with the scholarship opportunity, but graduating seniors are also eligible. Murakami and EKU plan to name the first two Murakami Scholars by the end of the Spring 2017 semester. “This agreement develops manufacturing talent for that region of the state, giving local kids the opportunity to get an education,” Erekson said.

Erekson termed the “Murakami Model” as a different approach to workforce development.

“Eastern is uniquely positioned to work with any company that wants to do something like this,” he said. “We can certainly help develop local talent for companies if they are interested. For example, if they know they will be needing an accountant in a few years, we can help educate that individual and return them to their home community.

“We need to leverage, to the benefit of their home communities, these strong family ties and develop the right kind of talent with bachelor’s degrees to work in companies throughout Kentucky.”

Photo Caption: Seated, from left: Charles Higdon, assistant superintendent, Taylor County Schools; Michael Rodenberg, president and chief operating officer, Murakami North America; Dr. Thomas Erekson, dean, EKU College of Business & Technology. Standing, from left: Kristen DeLaGarza, Taylor County High School student; Lindsey McPhearson, college and career ready counselor, TCHS; Laura Benningfield, principal, TCHS; and Angie Miller, administrations/HR manager with Murakami Manufacturing USA.

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Published on December 15, 2016

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