This university is proving philanthropy and economy can work together

SOURCE: Perry Grone/Unsplash
Bringing together non-profits, academics and corporations, ASU proves collaborations can work for all.

By U2B Staff 

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We talk a lot about the positive effects of university-business collaborations on this site. Much of our focus is on the business benefits, fiscal advantages, and the industry innovation they can spark.

While these are undoubtedly important aspects of collaboration, they are far from the only ones. Every once in a while, it’s nice to look beyond purely the business benefits and into the social.

The HOLA partnership at Arizona State University (ASU) does just that. Taking the strengths of academia paired with the resources of business to help the community and expand the future prospects of school children in their state.


Short for the Hispanic/Latino Organisation for Leadership, the HOLA partnership is a collaboration between ASU, nonprofit Be A Leader Foundation, and leaders from Hispanic Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) from corporations in the Phoenix metro area.

“Taking responsibility for the success of students in our community and helping them uncover the possibilities available to them is a priority for Educational Outreach and Student Services and for ASU,” Assistant Vice President for Outreach Partnerships at ASU, Lorenzo Chavez, told ASU News.

“Working with our longtime partner Be A Leader Foundation and bringing new corporate partners into the fold enables all of us to broaden our efforts for the benefit of Arizona’s students, families and communities.”

The 2018 HALO Partnership participants representing companies from all over Phoenix, Arizona.

Their flagship collaboration makes a lasting difference in the lives of young students and their families. It came about when members of the Hispanic ERGs were looking to get involved in an education-related community service exercise. With little success on their own, they turned to ASU and Be A Leader Foundation who have been in partnership for over 10 years.

Understanding the huge impact federal aid can have on a student’s likelihood of attending college, the couple suggested they work together to create a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application event.

The aim was to get the attention of local Arizona high school students and families, help them navigate the sometimes daunting path to college, and make them aware of the financial support available to them. Given Be A Leader’s vast experience in this field, the partnership decided the event would take place during their annual “Taking Steps Toward College Success” event.


Karla Robles, Chief Strategy Officer for Be A Leader Foundation, said that the majority of the students they serve haven’t been exposed to the college application process, and those in the partnership are able to help guide them and make the experience less cumbersome.

Over 60 employees from Phoenix-based companies are trained up on the complexities of the FAFSA application process prior to the event. The volunteers ranged from huge multinational corporations, down to local enterprise.

Organisations included Wells Fargo, MUFG Union Bank, Vanguard, Discover, American Express, Bank of America, the city of Phoenix, SRP, APS and Arizona Federal Credit Union.

While a complete change from their day jobs, volunteers walked away happy feeling they had done something worthwhile that would not only benefit the students they spoke to, but the wider Arizonan society.

“We were inspired to support Be A Leader’s ‘Taking Steps Towards College Success’ after learning about the impact that just completing a FAFSA application has on the likelihood of someone attending college,” Ivan Calderon, Vice President of Third-Party Management at MUFG Union Bank, told ASU News.

“All the folks involved in this initiative were surprised to learn how much of an effect we could have if we supported students and families in that process.”

Calderon recognises that the advantages of getting young people into higher education extends far beyond just the experiences of that student. A healthy and growing higher education sector is a boon to local economy and stands to benefit all HOLA partnership companies in the long run.

“Given the advances in technology, we need to have an educated and prepared labour force to meet future challenges and to keep Arizona competitive in the global economy,” Calderon said.

Adriana Delgado, who leads Wells Fargo’s Hispanic Employee Resource Group, echoed Calderon’s comments.

“Published research shows that higher education is directly correlated with economic growth and stability,” Delgado said.

“Directly applying that notion to the ‘Taking Steps Towards College Success’ event, one can argue that the students we helped during this event will one day be our colleagues, our customers, our government leaders.”