Banking on the Future
“A good university approaches its community with a sense of responsibility,” says Julius Robinson, head of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) Union Bank’s corporate social responsibility division. As the CEO of the MUFG Union Bank Foundation, he directs the bank’s charitable contributions to endeavors that help create thriving communities and pays close attention to the ways the bank’s philanthropic strategy can support community well-being and spur economic development.
Universities, he says, are an important asset that contribute to healthy communities in multiple ways. They partner with the local business community, governments and other organizations to provide energy, expertise and resources that would otherwise be unavailable. The athletic, cultural and academic offerings enrich the overall population. “And,” he says, “when you educate the students, they become economic drivers in their own right.”
CSUMB is preoccupied with remaining local and ensuring its impact resonates in the local community. It’s really cool from that standpoint.Julius Robinson
Just as CSUMB benefits its community in multiple ways, Julius himself has supported the university as a donor, as an advisor, and, most recently, as a parent.
“I also wanted to support my son’s ambitions in a way that helped develop the university as a whole—a double bottom line that’s very personal in its origins,” he says.
Julius’s son, Julius “Eric” Robinson, attended CSUMB and studied business. Eric switched his focus from marketing to entrepreneurship after taking Professor Susan Szasz’s macroeconomics course. “The class opened my eyes as to how our economy works and that the most successful people are actors, music artists, or entrepreneurs. I'm not one for acting and I only sing when I'm in the shower, so entrepreneurship sounded like a good idea,” Eric says.
He was also riveted by Professor Brad Barbeau’s entrepreneurship class, with its engaging anecdotes culled from the professor’s personal business experience. The small class sizes and personal relationships with faculty kept Eric from feeling lost in a sea of students, and helped him overcome any challenges that came up.
His experience as a student exemplifies the benefits of a university that is tightly integrated with its local community. As a service learner, Eric helped out in a local afterschool care center, assisting the kids with homework or coordinating games of dodgeball, basketball, and volleyball in the gym. His Capstone project paired him and a team of fellow students with a local business.
“We chose Mount Madonna Middle School in Watsonville,” he says. “We found three major factors that were stunting their growth in students and in profits, and provided four or five ways for them to fix each problem.” One of their findings was that the school was missing recruitment opportunities by failing to promote their events, something that could be remedied by doing more advertising. “My team provided research to help that business grow,” Eric says.
Eric graduated in 2017 and is now pursuing a career in Monterey County’s burgeoning cannabis industry. Over the past year, he’s worked his way up from being a budtender/cannabis consultant to co-inventory manager at Big Sur Cannabotanicals (BSBC), a dispensary in Carmel. “I am still in the process of figuring out where life will take me, but I am on an upward path that CSUMB helped set up for me,” he says. “I am confident in the cannabis industry and would like to be in it for as long as possible while still having room to grow, whether that be with BSCB or in my own cannabis business.”
His father, Julius, meanwhile, developed a strong relationship with College of Business Dean Shyam Kamath. “Shyam is a warm-hearted person who genuinely cares about the students, and he’s very interested in how the university can become more than just an institution of higher learning, but a meaningful and critical partner of the community. We have a shared ambition, and have had many philosophical and practical conversations on how to actualize that.
“As a philanthropic professional, I know monetary capital is one way to create change and support an institution,” says Julius. Under his direction over the years, the MUFG Union Bank Foundation has supported CSUMB capital projects such as the Chapman Science Center and the Tanimura & Antle Family Memorial Library, athletic programs, scholarships, and the College of Business.
Julius is also pursuing the new opportunities for engagement with the school that arose thanks to Eric. “My involvement with the university preceded him, but when he made the choice to go there, I also committed my intellectual capital—my own business experience and acumen, which is worth more than I could pay personally,” he says. Julius has spent 42 years in the banking sector, and has overseen a number of efforts, including diversity lending to small businesses and nonprofits led by women, minorities and veterans.
He brought that knowledge to the College of Business as a member of their advisory board, where he provided direct input into ways the university could improve its curriculum, supported competitions for undergrads to develop entrepreneurial thinking, and is helping the university launch a small business incubator to stimulate growth in the hospitality sector.
He’ll continue to work to create thriving communities, through Union Bank’s social responsibility initiatives and charitable giving, and as a deeply invested partner and trusted advisor to CSUMB.