How does your experience as the former president and CEO of manufacturing of BMW in Spartanburg, South Carolina, complement your new role at CofC? 

I’ve seen and lived through the big transformation on the shop floor – from human as “operator” to human as “architect and enabler of equipment.” And, I learned, business is people. In higher education we need to develop a student’s emotional intelligence in how to deal with other people and the cultural intelligence in how to open up to people and how to think differently.  

What do you like about your new role at the College?

I am excited to be part of growing the new engineering program and developing a curriculum nobody has done before based on high technology from current industry. It is a feeling of creating the future, not just waiting for it. I want to connect students with new, exciting technologies and software – like the robots from Boston Dynamics, which we brought to campus this spring (see sidebar below). 

What are some of the things you’re focusing on at the College in terms of innovation and industry engagement?  

There are many areas that the College can assist industry in innovation, such as autonomous mobile robots, machine learning and augmented reality problem-solving, but also cybersecurity risk management, supply chain management and intercultural leadership. I highly appreciate that the College makes it mandatory to learn and master a second language; this is essential to gain cultural intelligence. 

How do we bridge the gap between the classroom and industry?  

Industry has to get involved much earlier and provide a clear vision and definition about what kind of skills and personalities are needed – and also provide financial support for students, faculty and equipment. And students have to know what they are getting into by having real-life experience in business and a clear vision of their career opportunities.  

What accomplishment during your time at BMW are you proudest of?

Building cars is a pure team approach – there is no “I achieved this; you achieved that.” I am proud about my leadership role to make thousands of individuals work toward one goal: building the best car in the world, consistently growing and improving the business and looking into the eyes of a happy customer. One event that I will never forget is when we decided to do an all-associate meeting of my organization and we rented a sports stadium to suit 14,000 people. Standing in front of them, thinking about how I was responsible for their daily lives, including their families, made me proud. 

Boston Dynamics Spot Robot

Boston Dynamic’s Spot the robot visits the College of Charleston Campus.

Flor worked with robotics firm Boston Dynamics to bring its cutting-edge robot Spot to campus this spring to showcase the future of automation in engineering. Spot is an agile mobile robot that moves seamlessly across a variety of terrains, allowing businesses to automate routine inspections to improve safety and accuracy.