Corporate and Foundation Relations

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Featured Partners

Celebrating 65 Years of Collaboration

Oakland University and Oakland University Credit Union forge a transformative partnership

Oakland University Credit Union and Oakland University staff posing for a group photo around a lit up sign that says 65

By Catherine Ticer
Photo: Robert Hall

In a testament to the power of shared values and mutual support, Oakland University and the Oakland University Credit Union (OUCU) have come together in a partnership that epitomizes the spirit of community and philanthropy. The culmination of this collaboration is the newly renamed Oakland University Credit Union O’rena, an athletic arena that embodies the institution's commitment to fostering growth and opportunity for both students and the community.

A Journey Through Time: A Stronger Bond

The roots of this enduring partnership trace back to 1958 when the Credit Union first established its presence on campus as the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. In 2013, this partnership evolved further with the establishment of the Oakland University Credit Union trade name, coinciding with the addition of the Credit Union branch in the university's Oakland Center. During this time another branch, located near the university on Five Points Drive, also underwent a rebranding as OUCU.

Over the span of 65 years, this partnership has grown exponentially, with the Credit Union investing over $8.6 million in university programs, scholarships and initiatives. This substantial support has enabled a myriad of programs that enrich the university experience and empower students to achieve their aspirations.

“OUCU has invested in impactful programs that have helped advance the university and our students,” said Michael Westfall, vice president of university advancement. “They have addressed and filled in a lot of gaps for us. Every student at OU has benefited from their philanthropic commitment and vision.”

A Commitment to Education and Beyond

Oakland University Credit Union’s commitment to philanthropy has been transformative across campus and impactful in the lives of our many students through:

  1. Student Support: Since 2013, a generous annual commitment from OUCU has played a pivotal role in funding an endowed student scholarship, the Dean’s Choice grant program and other initiatives that drive student achievement.<
  2. Financial Literacy Education: The partnership extends to the classroom through the Credit Union's involvement with the ACHIEVE program in the OU School of Business Administration. Workshops have become an integral part of the curriculum, providing students with essential financial skills through experiential learning opportunities.
  3. Community Engagement: The Credit Union’s sponsorship of events like the Oakland University Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards celebration and the Michigan Climate Summit reflects OUCU’s dedication to promoting diversity, environmental awareness and community dialogue.
  4. Enabling Global Opportunities: With a groundbreaking $1 million investment, the Credit Union has paved the way for students to engage in international educational experiences. By alleviating financial barriers, OUCU has transformed the lives of countless students, making study abroad opportunities accessible to all.

A Catalyst for Growth and Sustainability

One of the most remarkable milestones of this partnership is the $5 million investment in the university’s sports programs through its 10-year naming rights agreement. The newly named OU Credit Union O’rena builds on the Credit Union’s long-standing partnership with athletics and symbolizes the unity of the university and its financial partner.

Furthermore, OUCU’s recent $1 million contribution has laid the foundation for the OU Center for Environmental Sustainability and Ethics. This initiative underscores the credit union's dedication to responsible sustainability practices and aligns with the prestigious Living Building Challenge certification program.

A Vision for the Future

Founded in 1937 by Michigan State University faculty and staff, the Credit Union has grown to more than 338,000 members, with $7.7 billion in assets, and more than 1,100 employees – making them the 42nd largest credit union in the country, and the second largest in the state of Michigan.

April M. Clobes, President and CEO of Oakland University Credit Union, is not only a driving force behind the OU/OUCU partnership but is also a personal donor. Her dedication has left an indelible mark on the university's initiatives and programs.

Clobes served in an advisory capacity for the “Aspire. Advance. Achieve.” campaign. The Credit Union also sponsored the public launch celebration for the campaign that is poised to raise $150 million by 2024.

The partnership has positively impacted the Credit Union with increased visibility to OU students, faculty and staff who trust OUCU for their financial services and to those that support student education, entrepreneurship and recreational actives.

"Education offers the knowledge and skills to provide for a successful and bright future," said Clobes. “We are proud of our history with Oakland University and to join with the University as they prepare future generations for the opportunities and challenges ahead.”

In the heart of the Oakland University campus, the partnership between Oakland University and the Oakland University Credit Union stands as a testament to the impact that can be achieved when education and philanthropy converge. As these two entities continue to collaborate, they shape a future where education, opportunity and community support thrive in harmonious unity.

Leading to a Sustainable Future

Oakland University takes major steps toward environmental sustainability

Elliott Tower surrounded by graphics related to sustainability

By Catherine Ticer

Thanks to a groundbreaking $1 million gift from Oakland University Credit Union 

(OUCU), Oakland University is poised to take major steps in responsible sustainability practices. This generous contribution sets the stage for the establishment of the OU Center for Environmental Sustainability and Ethics, the appointment of a distinguished director and the eventual development of a living building concept that aligns with the international Living Building Challenge certification program.

This transformative gift, however, represents more than just financial support. It serves as a resounding vote of confidence from OUCU, solidifying their dedication to preserving global resources and championing sustainability initiatives.

"We firmly believe in sustainability principles and are proud supporters of our university,” said April Clobes, president and CEO of OU Credit Union. “Together, we can forge a sustainable society and planet through education, research and collaborative efforts."

"We deeply appreciate Oakland University Credit Union's ongoing generosity and their visionary gift, which provides crucial funding to expand our sustainability endeavors,” remarked OU President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, commenting on the philanthropic milestone. “As responsible stewards of our resources, we strive to develop thriving communities that offer economic opportunities and an exceptional quality of life for all."

To propel this ambitious vision forward, the immediate plan involves recruiting a director of sustainability for Oakland University. With the expertise and coordination provided by this new leadership position, campus-wide sustainability efforts will be streamlined, allowing for measurable progress and potential accreditation from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability. This comprehensive campus sustainability rating system will further solidify Oakland University's commitment to environmental responsibility.

With faculty, staff, students and the facilities management team working hand in hand under the director's guidance, the next step will be to commission a schematic design for a living building, through a carefully crafted request for proposal (RFP). Upon conceptualization, fundraising initiatives will commence, subject to approval by the OU Board of Trustees.

The Living Building Challenge, with its seven performance categories — encompassing place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty — will guide the construction of this visionary project upon concept approval. The university's ultimate goal is to create a building that generates more energy than it consumes throughout its lifespan — a true testament to Oakland University's commitment to environmental stewardship.

Funding opportunities will include a building fund, an endowment to sustain the living building and an endowment to support the director of sustainability position.

“Together, we can forge a sustainable society and planet through education, research and collaborative efforts."

Michael Westfall, vice president of University Advancement, has been at the forefront of this effort, aiming to establish the living building as a symbol of regenerative architecture and a catalyst for community engagement, curriculum development and groundbreaking research. He hopes OU’s efforts will ignite a wider movement for conscientious sustainability within other organizations and communities.

“Universities play a pivotal role in shaping the future. By embracing sustainable practices, they can effectively reduce their environmental impact and inspire the next generation of leaders,” said Westfall. "Oakland University strives to model sustainable practices, instilling in our students a profound sense of environmental responsibility as they prepare to tackle the challenges of sustainability in their future careers."

A Healthy Investment

OU partners with Easterseals MORC to address social work and counseling shortages

Easterseals MORC and OU representatives signing documents at a table with microphones

By Brian Bierley/Molly Moore
Photo: John McTaggart

A new collaboration between Easterseals MORC and Oakland University’s social work and counseling programs through the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education and Human Services was announced at a ceremonial signing event on March 30. It comes as the number of openings for behavioral health professionals has outpaced the number of post-secondary students entering the workforce by nearly 50%, according to the Michigan Health Council.

Easterseals MORC provides services for children, adults, and seniors with disabilities and/or special needs as well as long-term care support to families. The nonprofit is one of the largest service providers of its kind in Michigan.

The Behavioral Health Workforce Development program is a new initiative based on a long-standing partnership between Easterseals MORC and OU. It will offer a unique scholarship opportunity and advanced training for students entering social work and counseling.

The agreement includes preferential acceptance for Easterseals MORC employees into Oakland University’s master of social work (MSW) program or counseling program, 25 paid internships for OU students with Easterseals MORC, and ten full-tuition scholarships for OU graduate students annually. The internships and scholarships are funded through an annual $500,000 investment from Easterseals MORC. Additionally, up to 50 Easterseals MORC employees per year will receive a 10% tuition discount to attend OU if pursuing an advanced degree in social work or counseling.

“We are excited about this program because it will allow us to open new learning opportunities and offer financial support for our students,” said Elaine Carey, dean of OU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “In turn, our students will graduate, have a career waiting with Easterseals MORC, and help address the current shortage of licensed mental health professionals.”

The partnership will help fortify the behavioral health workforce in two key clinical position areas and encourage more students to pursue social work and counseling careers. Students who accept a scholarship and complete required internship hours must commit to work for Easterseals MORC for a minimum of three years upon graduation.

“For the past several years, we’ve seen a growing demand for mental health services throughout the state, a situation that was further exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Brent Wirth, president and CEO of Easterseals MORC. “This new agreement will solidify a formal pipeline of talent that supports students seeking work in these fields, allow us to train and develop top-tier behavioral health professionals and help us retain them here in Michigan.”

Catalyst for Innovation

OU’s Augmented Reality Center demonstrates the power of collaboration

People in OU's Augmented Reality Center using AR equipment

By Deborah Kiefer
Photo: Robert Hall

It was a day some of the most inventive, forward-thinking minds of the region had been eagerly anticipating. On Friday, June 23, a host of industry professionals and community leaders from across southeast Michigan convened to celebrate the grand opening of Oakland University’s Augmented Reality Center (ARC).

ARC is an ambitious endeavor by OU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science dedicated to teaching people how to work with groundbreaking digital immersive technologies. Supported by over a dozen corporate partners, ARC’s mission is to foster an educational environment where students, faculty and industry professionals work together to create new applications for manufacturing and other fields.

Two principal forms of immersive technology are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Both blend a person’s physical environment with the digital world and are experienced through wearable headsets and glasses or other devices such as smartphones and tablets.

“VR completely immerses you in a simulated environment and blocks out the ‘real’ world,” says Khalid Mirza, Ph.D., ARC's founding director. “With AR, however, you can still see the room and everything else around you. But it’s augmented with additional graphics and digitized information in the space. Both can be useful for employee training, product design, machine maintenance and more.”

A unique aspect behind ARC’s educational initiative is that it recognizes both the technical and creative skillsets needed to work in the area. The College for Creative Studies, an art and design school in Detroit, is a key collaborator in ARC. Together, the two schools are teaming up to empower engineering and art students to learn from one another. “An AR or VR application can be engineered and programmed very well, but it also has to be visually compelling and engage the user effectively,” says Mirza. “That’s why the combination of engineering and design is so important.”

The highlight of the grand opening event was the public unveiling of the ARC Lab. Here, anyone is welcome to come and try out the latest gadgets and experience their potential and power. The lab is located on the second floor of OU’s Engineering Center and offers public visiting hours on selected weekdays.

"By collaborating with each other, we are not only helping create solutions for companies, we’re building their future workforce at the same time."

While immersive technologies are entrenched tools of the gaming and entertainment industries, their use in manufacturing is now rapidly expanding. Ed Volcic, vice president of Industry Management at KUKA Robotics, explains one application. “Augmented reality is being used to help visualize technical components within the robotics environment that normally you have in your mind or on a laptop. In fact, a demonstration of how digitized information can be superimposed over an actual robot is one of the experiences offered in the ARC Lab.”  Volcic adds, “Being able to see [data] right in front of you in an automation cell brings a ton of value. It really helps you understand what’s going on.”

Heiko Wenczel, director for unreal engine, human machine interface and automotive at Epic Games says, “We’re in the middle of a revolution, a real-time revolution, where the interaction with tools, especially game engines in the industrial space, is becoming more prevalent.”

Game engines are software platforms that enable developers to easily create their applications in interactive and extremely realistic 3D digital environments. “A lot of companies are recognizing that using these tools is going to be a competitive advantage over everyone else that’s not using them,” Wenczel advises.

But, knowing how to use these tools can be challenging for companies since the technology is so new and few employees currently have the skills to work with them. “That’s how ARC can help,” Mirza explains. “We bring together the companies, the engineering students, the design students and the faculty who are interested in this technology. By collaborating with each other, we are not only helping create solutions for companies, we’re building their future workforce at the same time.”

Volcic echoes the value of these collaborative efforts, especially among ARC’s partner companies. “All of us work in our own unique industries but there’s a ton of overlap. We’re all using very similar technologies. Bringing those different viewpoints together gives you the opportunity to come up with new ideas and things that you never would have imagined or thought of on your own."

For more information about the Augmented Reality Center and the lab’s public hours, please visit:

To learn about partnership opportunities and benefits of becoming an ARC corporate partner, contact Anthony Gallina at: [email protected]

With gratitude for ARC's founding partners:

ABB, Inc.
AM General
Epic Games
General Motors
Hirotec America
KUKA Robotics
Magna International
RAVE Computer