Sunday, June 3, 2012

Penn State and Chevron Forging Closer Links

Education is no longer merely an exercise directed internally, that is, directed toward the inside stakeholders of an institution--students, faculty, administration, and board. It now appears that mass communication in traditional media--like newspapers--also serves as an important venue for cultivating the image of a university and its partners. 

 (Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012)

 Both that, and the announcement of the deepening of an important relationship between Penn State University and Chevron was recently the subject of a two page advertising spread in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  See, Henry C, Foley and Jill DePompei-Morales, Companies that Work Here Should Develop Talent Here; We Agree, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, June 3, 2012, at A-8 to A-9.


The current relationship has its contemporary origins in 2007.  See Press Release: Chevron Forms Research Alliance With Penn State University to Develop Next Generation of Coal Conversion Technologies, Oct. 3, 2007 (Chevron to provide up to $17.5 million over next five years to fund broad-based research).
"Chevron values technological excellence and R&D capability and is impressed with the quality of coal research done at Penn State over the last century," said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer, Chevron Corporation. "Chevron also has a rich history in coal through our Chevron Mining Company and its predecessor, P&M Coal. We will draw on the deep expertise of both institutions to push the front edge of technology and innovation into the 21st century. We look forward to a highly productive research relationship that will contribute to the technical innovations of clean coal and coal-to-liquid technology."

"Penn State has a long history of teaching, research and service in energy technologies, resources and policy in Pennsylvania and across the world," said Graham Spanier, president, Penn State University. "The Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment bring together many strong energy sciences and technology assets in our colleges and institutes. This alliance will join the best efforts of higher education and the private sector in trying to resolve critical energy issues." (Ibid).

The announcement suggested the way that relationship has matured, directed toward the readers of print media in the greater Pittsburgh area. 
People are a community's greatest resource.  It takes education and training to unliock their potential.
In the Marcellus region, Chevron supports science and math programs to prepare local students for careers in our industry.
In the last five years, we've contributed over $5 million to Penn State for energy research.
And we're providing opportunities for local construction workers, drillers, engineers, and more.
We're laying the groundwork for success.
For our company.  And our community.
Learn more at
The two page spread is signed by Henry (Hank) Foley, Penn State's Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, and Jill DePompei-Morales, Human Resources Manager, Appalachian/Michigan Business Unit, Chevron. 

The advertisement reminds us of the importance of corporate social responsibility and its current parameters within the United States.  For Chevron the relationship with Penn State is important not merely as a source of research, but also as a means of deepening the legitimacy of its important CSR objectives.  See Backer, Larry Catá, Multinational Corporations, Transnational Law: The United Nation's Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations as Harbinger of Corporate Responsibility in International Law. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 37:287 (2006); Backer, Larry Catá, Transparency and Business in International Environmental Law (January 12, 2012). And I expect Chevron sees this opportunity as one part of its complex network of engagement with CSR efforts here in the US and abroad.  It must be borne in mind, of course, that such engagements, from Chevron part, will be directed toward its CSR objectives, as those mat be framed by emerging national and international frameworks affecting corporate responsibility.   Backer, Larry Catá, From Institutional Misalignment to Socially Sustainable Governance: The Guiding Principles for the Implementation of the United Nation’s 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' and the Construction of Inter-Systemic Global Governance (September 5, 2011). Pacific McGeorge Global Business & Development Law Journal, 2011. 

But it is important for Penn State as well, and important beyond the utility of the funds made available to the institution and its faculty by Chevron. Chevron provides a partner for deepening relations with local communities, it can serve the public mission of the university, and it provides a basis for the university to consider the forms and content of research, course and program development.  With a caution (Made to Market Education and Professionalization in University Education, June 2, 2012), it suggests the character of recent administration moves to position the university externally with its partners, with the surrounding community and in the political environment in which it operates.  Internally, it suggests a possible movement by administration to help shape, through these partnerships and incentives toward community engagement, such things as courses, outreach, continuing education, programs, research focus, and perhaps even campus missioning that we hope will be further developed through effective and deep consultation with faculty through its University Faculty Senate, and also, where appropriate with the board of trustees.  But we can only welcome such initiatives as they are appropriately framed to take advantage of Penn State's position and where such efforts enhance the global reputation of the university. Bravo.

We expect to see more of these efforts to reach out to the community through targeted advertising in the future.  We can expect that some of these will be undertaken in conjunction with university partners.  We assume that such partnerships and such endeavors will change the shape of the university, both at University Park and at the Campuses.  We, as faculty, welcome the opportunity to become a greater part of these worthy efforts.

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