Willis Group Announces Fund To Promote Student Success

Published on March 9, 2011

Partnering with Education is Good for Business, Willis Group Says

Mark Willis (left), President and CEO of Willis Group, and Mike Willis, chairman of Willis Group, have developed a unique partnership with UH Bauer College through The Willis Group Excellence Fund.

The Willis Group believes that investing in education is good for the community and good for business.

Toward that end, the Houston-based suite of staffing and recruitment firms is making a uniquely structured gift to the C. T. Bauer College of Business. By donating a percentage of its permanent placement fees to the University of Houston’s nationally ranked business college, Willis Group has established The Willis Group Excellence Fund and made an annual commitment expected to total “well over $100,000.” The resulting fund, focused on promoting excellence and leadership, will support the college, individual students and a wide range of student organizations and activities.

Mark Willis, President and CEO of Willis Group, hopes other Houston businesses will follow suit.

“We are very excited about partnering with Bauer,” Willis said in an interview. “We want to be a company that gives back to the community, and education is important to us. We really wanted to align ourselves with a local university, and Bauer College has an excellent reputation.”

Willis Group also plans to leverage the fund and its core competencies to encourage other Houston businesses to contribute to the university. “We have more executives here in this town out of UH than any other university in the country,” Willis said. “We thought it would be a good opportunity for us to go in and have a conversation with C-suite alumni and give them an opportunity to understand that we support our university and we are giving back.  Whether those conversations result in a business relationship and a related increase in the fund or encourage the alumni to get involved themselves, we see it as a benefit to Bauer.”

In addition to the annual gift, Willis is encouraging his 65-member company to get involved in projects and develop meaningful relationships at the college. “My dad has spoken at some of the business school classes about the history of the staffing industry and his experiences in business and one of our Vice Presidents is very involved in the Mentor Program for MBA students,” he said. “It’s important to us that we continue to do things like that.”

While Willis Group wants to share its considerable business experience and job market knowledge with Bauer students, Willis thinks the relationship can be two-fold—that Bauer students can bring their own skill sets to his company. “We are anxious to be able to work with some of those individual students on internships,” he said, “whether that is in our corporate office focused on accounting or marketing or in our front office sourcing candidates or making sales calls.”

“Bringing the real world of business into the classroom has long been a priority at Bauer, and Willis Group is an outstanding addition to the many companies who engage on a regular basis with Bauer College students, student organizations and academic programs,” said Interim Dean Latha Ramchand.

The Willis brand has been synonymous with Houston talent for decades. A pioneer in the recruitment field, Willis Group Chairman, Michael T. Willis, founded Talent Tree in 1976 and went on to create national and international staffing entities. Mark Willis established Willis Group in 1997 acquiring the veteran Houston staffing agency, Donovan & Watkins, in 2006. Shortly thereafter, Willis diversified its holdings with the addition of Genuent, Seis-Strat, and Enstream Global which staff personnel in technology, geo-science and engineering respectively.   “Because the vision of The Willis Group is to champion entrepreneurs, each entity is led by an industry expert, who effectively functions as an entrepreneur or partner,” Willis said.

As Bauer College replenishes the work force with strong job candidates, The Willis Group can help put them to work. “We are marrying the best potential candidates to the best potential companies,” Willis said. “I think there is a nice synergy between what we want to accomplish and what Bauer wants to accomplish, which is putting their students out to good jobs in the community.”

By Wendell Brock