FPU’s Student Utility Board Thrives

by | Mar 2023

In 2010, Fayetteville Public Utilities’ (FPU) CEO/General Manager Britt Dye envisioned a project to help generate awareness of the utility company and its role in the community. Dye’s idea grew into a program known as the Student Utility Board (SUB). Thirteen years later, the program is a thriving example of how innovative thinking engages future employees, builds interests, and creates ambassadors.

With seven members, the Student Utility Board mirrors FPU’s Board of Directors. The student board consists of three seniors from Lincoln County High School, three from Fayetteville High School, and one from Riverside Christian Academy. Like the school year, terms run from August to May. Throughout the term, FPU’s student board meets monthly for an overview of each department and a guided tour of the services FPU provides. Students gain a broad knowledge of the electric, natural gas, water, sewer, telecommunications, customer service, billing, accounting and marketing departments.

“The Student Utility Board offers students great educational opportunities through firsthand observations of the services we provide,” says Dye. “We want them to have an authentic experience when learning about FPU and what we do for the community These students are our future leaders and utility customers, and through their involvement, we gain excellent feedback and a valuable student perspective.”

Beyond the lessons students learn through experiences with FPU’s departments, SUB members participate in community service projects and events. Projects include raising money for local charities through a ribeye sandwich sale, packing and distributing food for the Hands of Mercy Outreach Center, delivering nonperishable food to the Good Samaritan Association of Lincoln County and packing and delivering gifts to children enrolled in the Amana Head Start program.

“While most Student Utility Board meetings concentrate on our FPU departments and the services we offer, we want students to realize that FPU exists not only to provide safe and reliable utilities but also to make a difference in our community by being involved and giving back,” states Dye. “Service to our community is an important part of what we do at FPU, and we are thrilled to include our student board in our community projects.”

Throughout the year, SUB members earn points by participating in monthly meetings and community events. At the end of the year, points are totaled, and FPU awards a $1,000 scholarship based on points the student earned for active participation in the program and written responses provided on the scholarship application and essay.

The SUB program cultivates connections and encourages communication between the utility and students. “Students serve as representatives,” adds Dye. “They represent FPU by engaging with the utility and sharing the skills and knowledge they have gained with family and friends. Members also represent their peers. Through collaboration with employees, students contribute valuable insight and ideas to help shape the future of the utility.”

Over the years, the SUB program has fostered relationships and developed into a recruiting tool.”Many of the students who participate in the student board end up working for FPU employs a Middle Tennessee State University student pursuing a degree in graphic design and a computer science major seeking a career in cybersecurity, both of whom served as SUB members. In addition, a former student board member is employed as a full-time dispatcher for the utility.”

When the idea of a Student Utility Board materialized, Dye could only imagine the full extent of its value. Thirteen years later, the program is thriving and making a difference. According to Dye, “FPU focuses on providing services that not only meet the needs of today but also prepare for the growing needs of our future. Through their involvement, the SUB members are given the opportunity to experience the difference FPU makes in our community, and we gain insight about how we can better serve the next generation of FPU customers.”

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