How Employers Succeed with SAP University Alliances (UA)

Meagan Knoll and Tom McGinnis recently rejoined Mustansir Saifuddin to do a deeper dive on how employers can engage and take full advantage of the SAP University Alliance program. With decades of experience working with students and employers, they understand how vital such programs are for all involved, including the universities. This is the second in a two-part podcast series. The first episode is here.

By Mariyah Saifuddin

Unlocking Value with SAP University Alliances

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In this episode of “Tech-Driven Business,” Meagan Knoll and Tom McGinnis share some of the unique opportunities that the SAP University Alliances program offers, including:

  • Training and workshops to ensure that faculty and students are “always on the cusp of new technology and emerging technology.”
  • Hands-on access to SAP systems so that students can explore, learn and experience of being in a SAP system.
  • Curriculum resources that consider how to best impart knowledge in a hands-on way to students. With a standardized approach across the UA program, schools can pool their talents to troubleshoot and provide the best curriculum opportunities.
  • Connecting SAP employees or SAP users with faculty and students ensures that the right content is being taught and quality connections are being made.
  • Certifications and badges, which allow students to leave with not only a university degree but also an SAP certification.

From cutting-edge training and hands-on access to SAP systems to standardized curriculum resources and certifications, UA programs empower students with practical skills and industry-relevant knowledge. Moreover, these initiatives not only benefit students but also enhance the expertise of teaching staff, fostering a holistic learning environment.

Advantages for Employers

Tom McGinnis builds on Knoll’s points, delving into how employers benefit from the program. This includes:

Employers have students who arrive on-site on Day 1 with an understanding of process. “They know what master data is,” said McGinnis. “They know what the organizational structure of the organization could be. They understand the transactions. That fundamental knowledge of all those pieces really adds a great deal of value.”

New hires can translate what they learned in the UA program into the organization and translate that into reporting, data sourcing, and data-driven decisions. “It really lets them hit the ground running, and the businesses can get a great deal out of that,” McGinnis said.

Employers can speak to students about what’s important to the business and they can understand, accept, and work accordingly. “Students are no longer passive in their education and jumping on board and augmenting skills more and more,” McGinnis said. “So it improves both the business side as well as the student side. It’s really fun to watch.”

By engaging with UA-affiliated universities, employers gain access to a talent pool equipped with foundational SAP knowledge and a deep understanding of business processes. This enables new hires to seamlessly integrate into organizations, driving efficiency and productivity from Day 1. Moreover, active participation in UA programs allows employers to assess program quality, align curriculum with industry needs, and establish meaningful partnerships with academic institutions.

How Employers Can Leverage UA Programs

Knoll emphasizes the multiple avenues for employers to connect with UA programs. From liaising with faculty coordinators and participating in advisory boards to collaborating with career services, employers can leverage various channels to engage with UA-affiliated universities.

Faculty coordinator: Schools participating in the program have a faculty coordinator who can help employers learn about student groups and current school offerings, and help the employers if they have any needs or gaps to be filled.

Advisory board opportunities: Many universities in the program have advisory boards that help them direct curriculum choices. It’s a way for employers to get actively involved in the education students receive.

Career services: By contacting a local university’s career services, employers can inquire to see if the school has an SAP program.  Working through career services offices can open doors to the courses offered and to the student body that makes up those courses. Additionally, there may be ways to really get engaged, possibly through offering student internships or hiring into entry-level positions.

NextGen Labs / Code Jams: Employers can use such opportunities to see student capabilities and facilitate talent scouting. Nextgen Labs are a space within the university where students can do hands-on projects for a community partner.

How Employers Succeed in the Program

The collaborative system of faculty, students and employers creates a nurturing, supporting environment for all involved. At the end it is about all three benefiting. For employers, by integrating real-world experiences into the curriculum, educators empower students to thrive in the rapidly evolving tech landscape.

Employers should be mindful of the following suggestions:

Be active and participate with faculty and students. It often is more than the technology piece. For instance, Knoll and McGinnis often work with students and employers to share hiring practices or an average day in the office with student groups. It is about setting expectations and requirements  for students as they enter the working world.

Assess the program; not all programs are equal. Along with a differentiation in size, some schools may have dedicated SAP coursework like a 15-week course on business processes or activities, dealing with configuration, dealing with warehouse management or building a data warehouse.

Schools may also incorporate pieces of SAP into their other courses such as accounting or supply chain courses. Employers can come in and take a look at that and see what students and schools are looking for.

“Students see the employers coming in and get an understanding of what the employers are looking for, and everyone starts to dial in on what they like,” McGinnis said.

The SAP UA program is a great tool for employers to fill their tech talent pipeline. And it is clear that employers, educators and students alike stand to benefit from meaningful engagement, unlocking opportunities for innovation and talent development. 

Interested in more Tech-Driven Business podcasts? You can listen here

About the podcast guests

Meagan KnollMeagan Knoll has been a member of Grand Valley State University faculty for 16 years. In addition, she is the vice chair of the SAP North America Academic Community Board and co-chair of the Partnership Committee.

Meagan’s commitment to student success extends beyond the classroom. She takes great pride in her extracurricular role as the advisor of the university’s SAP student group, a community that serves as a crucial bridge connecting students to professionals within the SAP ecosystem.

Outside of GVSU, Meagan remains deeply involved with the ASUG Michigan Chapter, where she currently holds a position on the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).


Thomas McGinnisThomas McGinnis has industry experience as a software developer, business analyst, system administrator, ERP consultant, and project manager.

Tom also has 20 years of experience in academia.  He has a master of science and a Ph.D. in the field of business information systems; he is an SAP-certified associate consultant and TERP10 academy instructor.  Tom has developed and taught courses in Enterprise Resource Planning (using SAP), Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing.

He is active in his local ASUG chapter, frequently presenting new and developing aspects of Business Intelligence at chapter meetings.   Tom’s research work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters and numerous conference proceedings.

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