Exclusive: USC Tasks Andy Bernardin with Making Business Connections

Richard Breen

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

After 34 years with IBM, Andy Bernardin had a lot of options when it came to deciding how to write the next chapter in his career.

“My background is really relationships,” he said.

While managing relationships during a joint project between IBM and the University of South Carolina, Bernardin was exposed to a part of the university he hadn’t seen before. Now he’s switching sides, so to speak, going to work for USC to help build further relationships with industry.

Bernardin recently joined the school’s Office of Economic Engagement. He’ll be working with the office’s executive director, Bill Kirkland. OEE is charged with commercializing USC research, encouraging entrepreneurship and developing partnerships between the school and the business community.

“Guys like Andy who’ve had successful careers in corporate America are looking to leverage their experience,” Kirkland said. “Our office is very small. Andy’s another person who can help drive industry partnerships.”

The creation of USC’s Center for Applied Analytics, which opened in 2016, first introduced Bernardin to OEE. At the time, he was IBM’s senior location executive for South Carolina.

“I was able to spend a lot of time making sure communication was flowing,” throughout the project, he said.

The result was a 110,000-square-foot building at the corner of Assembly and Blossom streets in Columbia, where IBM collaborates with USC on research into practical applications for the Internet of Things.

“I learned about Bill’s office through the process and it looked very interesting to me,” Bernardin said. After considering other post-retirement options, he said, “I felt this was the place I really wanted to be.”

The role marks a homecoming in some ways for Bernardin. The Midlands native is a 1983 USC graduate. His mother, Elizabeth, was an English professor at the school.

“It’s sort of in my blood,” he said.

He said USC is much more a research university now than when he was a student. He also said “there’s a buzz” on campus that reflects the school’s direction.

“I think the student body and young alumni have a lot of pride in this place,” he said.

Bernardin and Kirkland have already been on the road, visiting with industry contacts on topics such as automotive research.

“We’ve got a great opportunity to work with manufacturers in our state – and perhaps attract other manufacturers,” Bernardin said.

Kirkland said advanced manufacturing and health care are two priority sectors for OEE. Bernardin most recently served as a regional director of IBM’s health care, education and government unit.

As South Carolina continues to establish itself as a hub for advanced manufacturing, the state’s flagship university wants to help make sure it stays ahead of technological advances.

“We really need to have that connection between industry and the university,” Kirkland said.