University And Local Business Partnerships Bring Great Results

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn Palm Beach Atlantic University President

At Palm Beach Atlantic University, as we’re getting ready to announce some exciting plans for our Rinker School of Business, we’ve been thinking much about the powerful results that come when a university collaborates with local businesses.

Local Businesses and PBA

You might consider the practicalities of the business world as far removed from the “ivory tower of academia.” But that tower is an unfortunate image, and the phrase certainly doesn’t describe what’s happening at PBA. Sure, we’re serious about rigorous academics, but we don’t climb up into a tower of privileged seclusion. Instead, we belong to an ever-growing learning community that thrives in partnership with like-minded leaders in businesses and organizations all around us.

For a great example of this collaboration, meet Ray and A.J. Titus of United Franchise Group™ (UFG), a West Palm Beach business with a global reach. The company has 1,600 franchisees in more than 60 countries. Ray is founder and CEO, while his son A.J. is president of United Franchise Group and president of Signarama®, the largest franchise brand affiliate at UFG. 

A.J. gets some credit for getting UFG involved with PBA, because he earned his international business degree at the university. Before long, the company was offering a business competition for PBA students and admiring the performance of interns hired from the university. “It’s becoming apparent to the business community that PBA is where you go if you want to get good staff down the road,” said Ray. 


Giving back to the community

UFG encourages its franchise owners to get involved in their communities, so as UFG grew, Ray began to consider how the company could increase its service to the West Palm Beach area. “This was one of my dreams,” he said, “to give back in the community.” He and his wife, Andrea, sat down and talked about making a large commitment to a local organization, agreeing that it had to be an organization that shared their values and the high ethical standards UFG holds. 

Such shared values, of course, also are the key when the university considers partnerships. PBA leaders had appreciated the Christian faith and “walk” they observed in the Titus family, so they were thrilled when UFG made a major gift in 2017 to establish the Titus Center for Franchising at Palm Beach Atlantic University. 

Dedicated to “educating the next franchise generation,” the center caught on quickly among students in the Rinker School of Business. Directed by longtime franchise expert Dr. John P. Hayes, the Titus Center has helped students master the principles of business franchising while also providing professional education for people who want to work in franchising, buy a franchise, or franchise their business.


Advisory board entrepreneurs

Ray and A.J. Titus of United Franchise Group™

“I see it as a huge success,” said Ray. One measure of that success is that the center’s advisory board has attracted 75 members from the franchise community. These are busy entrepreneurs who devote a significant amount of time and energy supporting the program.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Ray. Students gain mentorships and opportunities within successful franchises, while franchise owners gain great interns and future employees. 

A.J. Titus observed that these advisory board members “come for the vision” of the franchise center, “and they stay” because of the caliber of the students. Among those board members is Eddie Rodriguez, a Wendy’s Company franchise owner and chairman of WenCo Restaurant Group. Eddie was honored on November 3rd as a companion medalist in PBA’s American Free Enterprise Day celebration. Last year in that event Ray Titus won the top award, the American Free Enterprise Medal.

Titus Center Advisory Board members and others in the business community enjoy coming to programs sponsored by the center. “Your best idea could come from that next meeting,” said Ray, “and your best new employee could come from the Titus Center.”

I’ve had the privilege of attending some Titus Center events: upbeat gatherings that pull together a wonderful mix of creative, energetic business people and eager-to-learn students. I see lots of seeds planted for future business success. 

And speaking of the future, remember how I mentioned some exciting plans for our Rinker School of Business? Shh! I can’t reveal the details yet, but they’ll be announced soon. Keep an eye on the PBA website: This much I can tell you: major opportunities are on the way for new, meaningful partnerships between the business school and leaders throughout South Florida. 


Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a physician, researcher and innovator, is president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. (

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