Q&A: TI is inspiring a global culture of building stronger communities

Andy Smith, leader of our Giving and Volunteering team and executive director of the TI Foundation, discusses how the philanthropic spirit is ingrained in TI’s culture, how we’re strengthening communities where we live and work, and what giving back means to him personally

23 May 2023

For Andy Smith, giving back is a personal and professional priority.

When he’s not championing grants made by our company and the TI Foundation or running community-focused volunteering and employee-giving programs as the leader of our Giving and Volunteering team, Andy and his husband, Paul, frequently volunteer with nonprofits that address critical needs in their community. Like Andy, thousands of TI employees and retirees around the world devote their time, talent and resources to causes they care deeply about inside and outside of work.

Andy, who has been with our company for more than 25 years, recently discussed TI’s long-standing commitment to building stronger communities, how we’re improving the lives of our neighbors and what inspires him to give back.

Question: TI has invested millions of dollars and countless hours to help build stronger communities. What drives this culture of giving back?

Andy Smith: Our spirit of giving back began with our company’s founders and their families, who had a long history of philanthropy and volunteerism in North Texas. The University of Texas at Dallas, for example, was established by three of our founders who wanted to grow local talent by creating better educational opportunities for students in North Texas. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, which serves millions of North Texans every year, was also established by TI Founder J. Erik Jonsson, who also became the mayor of Dallas and was largely responsible for the city’s incredible public library system. Over the years, our company’s leaders have passed down this spirit of giving back – and instilled it in TIers around the globe – generation after generation. The belief that strong companies build strong communities, and strong communities build strong companies, is just as ingrained in our company culture today as it was 90 years ago when we were founded.

One of our ambitions is to be a company that we’re personally proud to be a part of and would want as our neighbor, and giving and volunteering certainly play a role in that. When you look at the 1.9 million hours volunteered and $114 million donated by our generous employees and retirees since 2010, you can see how important this ambition is to every TIer around the world.  

image of Andy Smith followed by a quote

I should add that our retirees are as active as our employees in our communities. And for many of them, their post-retirement world often includes translating their TI skills in a variety of ways, including serving on boards and running nonprofit organizations. They see the end of their careers at TI as only the beginning of a new opportunity to put their corporate know-how and discipline toward the greater good.

Q: Your team leads our company’s giving and volunteering programs. What are some of your team’s top priorities?

Andy Smith: Our mission is straightforward: invest to improve the communities where we live and work and engage TI employees through giving and volunteering programs around the world. While we invest in several areas that address the most critical needs in our communities, education has always been the top philanthropic priority for both TI and the TI Foundation. In North Texas, where we are headquartered, our biggest area of giving and volunteering is in STEM education – specifically in programs that encourage STEM foundations for under-represented students.

We believe that STEM skills are survival skills, regardless of which career path a student may choose. We also believe that a teacher has a tremendous influence on a child’s academic success, and our grants decisions reflect that. With our TI Foundation grants in particular, we look to invest so that teachers and principals have support and training to achieve good outcomes for all students and so that students have the opportunity to acquire the right skills and master the fundamentals in a safe space for learning, growing and thriving.  

A great example of these investments in action is more than 10 years and nearly $22 million in funding for three public school districts in southern Dallas County, an area where one-third of residents live in poverty and where STEM learning needs are high but opportunity is low. Our investments have transformed these districts into STEM districts, starting in 2012 with  Lancaster Independent School District, the first K-12 STEM district in Texas. We’re proud to help equip students in southern Dallas County to become tomorrow’s innovators.

Graphic of volunteer stats

There are so many examples of our commitment to education outside of the U.S., as well. One of our employees in India, for example, is helping students get scholarships to secondary school and to teach parents the importance of their children continuing their education. TI also provides back-to-school resources for students in 130 schools in and around Bangalore and operates two STEM centers that teach students science concepts. In China, TIers organize an annual fundraiser to help support children with congenital heart disease. Through the generosity and volunteer efforts of our China team, TI has donated almost 50 heart surgeries to children in need since 2018. TI China also financially supports more than 400 high school students that come from impoverished families, enabling them to enjoy quality education opportunities.

Image of TI Employee volunteering
TI employee Aditya volunteering at an elementary school in Bangalore, India

Q: United Way is TI’s largest annual giving and volunteering campaign. What are some of the ways our company and TIers get involved to make an impact?

Andy Smith: One of our longest-standing partnerships is with United Way. Every year in the U.S., our company holds a United Way campaign and encourages our employees to get involved through fundraisers, payroll donations and volunteering in areas that help address the biggest needs in our communities. The spirit of giving displayed by our employees never ceases to amaze me. In 2022 alone, TI employees and retirees, TI and the TI Foundation raised $9.6 million for United Way to go toward programs that create opportunities for all to thrive. TIers also spent nearly 1,700 hours volunteering with and for United Way partner agencies.

Q: One of TI’s ambitions is to be a company that we are personally proud to be a part of and would want as our neighbor. What are some of the ways TI employees are living this ambition?

Andy Smith: Every two years, TIers have the opportunity to nominate their co-workers for the TI Founders Community Impact Award, which recognizes contributions by TIers in the communities where we operate around the world. I’m glad I’m not in charge of selecting the finalists, because all the nominees deserve recognition for their efforts to build stronger communities.

Our 2022 winner, Nathan, was recognized for his work serving the unsheltered and hungry in Salt Lake City, Utah. One of our impact award finalists, Stephan, helps resettle and support refugees – including children – in Europe. In Malaysia, a team of TIers volunteer with low-income residents, the hungry and children in areas near our sites in Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. And in Dallas, TI engineer Abhi advocates for abused and neglected children and helps find them safe, permanent, nurturing homes. We also have more than 20 employee-led community involvement teams.

TI employees are some of the smartest and most talented – and caring – people in the world. I’m always amazed and humbled to see how they use their time, talents and hearts to make an impact in their communities.

Q: You have a strong love for the arts. How did that influence you as a child and nurture your passion for giving back personally and professionally?

Andy Smith: One of the best gifts I ever received was a ticket to see Camelot at Dallas Summer Musicals – now Dallas Broadway -- for my 16th birthday. As a kid from the small town of Tyler, Texas, I was so excited to come to Dallas and see a Broadway production for the first time. I credit my mom and dad for all they did to nurture my passion for the arts and for giving me that ticket.

I’ve been involved in the community in some way, shape or form since college. Whether it’s co-chairing an arts gala, working with the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum or volunteering with members of our Pride Network at the Resource Center to advance LGBTQ+ equity, giving back to make our community a better, stronger and more equitable place is something I’ve prioritized in my personal and professional life. I’m proud to work for a company that believes the arts – in addition to education, racial equity and human services – is a key building block of a vibrant, thriving and strong community.

Q: What can people learn and take away by volunteering in their communities? 

Andy Smith: Volunteering is a deeply rewarding experience. Apart from making a difference in the lives of others, volunteering helps build camaraderie and creates a sense of shared purpose with your friends, co-workers and communities. It also helps build skills that can be used in the workplace, including leadership, influencing others, public speaking, and working toward common goals, to name only a few benefits of volunteering. If you have a skill, look for organizations that need those skills. If there’s a skill you want to learn, find a volunteer opportunity that puts you in a position to try something new and become a part of something bigger than yourself.

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