NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Through a new partnership, Stephen F. Austin State University students will have the opportunity to gain tangible corporate experience and become the next generation of information technology talent while simultaneously completing their degrees.

During the SFA Board of Regents quarterly meeting Tuesday, regents approved a partnership between SFA and Fenway Group, a company dedicated to training college students to become the next generation of IT talent. Employees of Fenway Group teach college students how to work in corporate America, which often leads to employment upon program completion and graduation.

Martin Santora, founder and president of Fenway Group, said the company has a 100-percent job-placement rate. He explained to regents that program completers are recruited to work with the company, a corporate client, or a public or private entity within the graduate's area of study.

Dr. Steve Bullard, SFA provost and vice president for academic affairs, called the program a great opportunity for students and the university.

"Partnering with Fenway Group is a win, win, win," Bullard said. "At SFA, our goal is to provide students with transformative experiences. Students who work for Fenway Group will not simply work a job - their lives will be transformed."

Fenway Group serves as an alternative to corporate business-related offshoring, working to keep IT careers in America. Using a unique business model, Fenway Group partners with select universities to provide business services for major corporations that include managed services, talent pipeline and collaborative projects. Some of its clients include Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and CenturyLink.

Students who participate in the program will work 20 hours a week, with SFA alumni serving as coaches and mentors to the team. The team will work daily with a corporate client, and the students will be paid $10 to $20 an hour, depending on the position.

"Fenway Group provides students real-world opportunities while giving constant guidance and mentorship, and we are looking forward to incorporating the group's expertise into our university culture," Bullard said. "This partnership will help our students attain the necessary first two years of experience for entry-level positions and begin establishing their careers before leaving SFA."

Fenway Group will have an on-campus office in the McGee Business Building, and the program will be open to all majors.

In continuation of providing students with transformative experiences and hands-on learning opportunities, regents also approved the purchase for the Department of Biology of state-of-the-art equipment, including a Tecnai 12 transmission electron microscope and a silicon drift detector X-ray microanalysis system.

"This equipment will provide students access to cutting-edge technology, as well as position SFA uniquely among peer institutions to be able to train students on these pieces of scientific equipment," Bullard said.

Additionally, regents voted to exempt students enrolled in online-only, off-campus-only or a combination of these course-delivery methods from charges for recreational sports and university center fees beginning fall 2017. Also, students taking study-abroad courses lasting longer than four weeks will be exempt from the recreational sports and university center fees.

The board also approved fees for a three-week Summer High School Academy for international high school students focusing on English as a second language, science and math for summer 2017. The $4,495 participant fee will cover program costs, excursions, housing, meal plan, insurance and local transportation.

A $1,900 fee for the Proyecta 100,000 program, a one-month ESL program for Mexican teachers and students, was approved. This fee will cover teaching, lab modules, excursion and local transportation.

Regents approved a summer budget of $3.6 million for fiscal year 2016-17, which covers two regular summer semesters and a mini-semester. Regents ratified $368,162 in additional grant awards allocable to fiscal year 2017. The funds are a portion of approximately $6 million for the fiscal year.

Board members approved an audit charter and acknowledged the receipt of the audit services report. Regents approved an extension of the William & Fudge contract through June 30, 2018, and the Windham Professional debt collection contract through Aug. 31, 2018, as well as a contract with People Admin, a human resources application system that enables the electronic handling of SFA's employee recruitment and onboarding processes. Regents also approved a contract renewal with Ad Astra scheduling software.

An amendment to the Aramark contract, which will allow for Chick-fil-A renovations in the Baker Pattillo Student Center, also was approved.

During Tuesday's meeting, the board approved a proposal to increase the tuition bond debt service budget by $3.5 million for the fiscal year 2017.

Additionally, the board approved the establishment of the Alfred and Madeline Danheim quasi-endowments, which will allow for student scholarships and support of the School of Music.

Regents approved policy revisions, curriculum changes and minutes from the January and March meetings. They received updates on Senate Bill 20, NCAA revenue distribution, the fine arts architecture project by Kirksey Architecture, current university construction, planned maintenance, the Carillon Bells Project and the university's marketing campaign. The board also heard reports from the Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and the university president.