For years, one of the main philosophical goals of the leaders at UMR has been to create an environment where students have a real stake in the research that is going on at the university. In that way, UMR is similar to one of its largest corporate partners – Nucor Corp.
By trusting its people, flattening its hierarchy and doing a good job of sharing corporate wealth, Nucor has become the largest steel company in the United States. According to Business Week magazine, “The 11,300 nonunion employees at the Charlotte (N.C.) company don’t see themselves as worker bees waiting for instructions from above.” Perhaps they don’t feel like worker bees because the corporation’s founding chairman, F. Kenneth Iverson, had what Business Week calls a radical insight – that employees will make an extraordinary effort if you reward them richly, treat them with respect and give them real power. Many of those employees come from UMR.
In the past five years, Nucor has become the largest employer of UMR’s metallurgical engineering graduates and a major employer of all UMR graduates. At a number of locations in the United States, Nucor employees use the latest technology to manufacture a wide variety of carbon and steel products. In 2005, sales were $12.7 billion.
Last year, Nucor donated $2 million to endow the F. Kenneth Iverson Chair in UMR’s materials science and engineering department – UMR’s largest corporate gift to date. Through the endowment, Nucor is also supporting education and research in steelmaking technologies at UMR with the intention of assisting in the development of future visionary leaders and technological experts in metals manufacturing. “A partner with UMR for many years, Nucor appreciates our commitment to providing a traditional metallurgical engineering program that produces leading research and contributions to the steel industry,” says UMR Chancellor John F. Carney III.
Not too long ago, business writer Jim Collins and a team of researchers sorted through a list of 1,435 companies, looking for those that made substantial improvements in their performance over time. Nucor was one of 11 companies that Collins eventually profiled in his 2001 book, Good to Great.
Nucor believes the UMR research is crucial to continued steelmaking success. “Nucor has always embraced new technologies,” says Dan DiMicco, the corporation’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “This endowment will help support the development of tomorrow’s technologies in the steel industry.”
And what of tomorrow’s UMR grads who will eventually go to work for Nucor? Well, they can expect to have a big stake in the corporation’s growth and future profits. Back in 2005, Nucor gave out more than $220 million in profit sharing and bonuses to its employees.