Skip Navigation
News & Media

2020 IEP “Talent” Award Finalist Spotlight: Purdue University Engagement During Covid-19: Expanding and Energizing Flexible Partnerships

September 8, 2020

By Steve Abel, Associate Provost for Engagement at Purdue University; Greg Deason, Senior Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Place Making at Purdue University; Shatoya Ward, Principal PPHS Downtown; Keeanna Warren, Principal PPHS North; and Frank Dooley, Chancellor of Purdue Global

IEP Blog
This article is included as part of APLU's Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Perspectives Blog. Read other articles around strategies, programs, and impact of APLU's IEP designees at Earn APLU’s IEP designation. Learn more at

Now more than ever, communities are looking to land-grant universities for inclusive engagement for economic development, flexible education, and responsive research - particularly in response to COVID-19. Every member of Purdue University is dedicated to this challenge. 

One such example is Purdue’s partnership with 3M to develop personal protective equipment for first-responders. In March, 3M donated 17,000 square yards of transparent material to Purdue. Since then, a team of nearly 40 faculty and staff members have been using Purdue’s unique roll-to-roll manufacturing equipment and 3D printers to develop face shields and other PPE. This team has freely distributed nearly 50,000 pieces of PPE to health care facilities thoughout Indiana. 

To Purdue, being designated an “economically engaged” university means that we have relationships in place to anticipate, prepare, and rapidly respond to our community’s needs. This is driven by APLU’s four simple ideas summarized as “know, measure, tell, engage,” with a focus on expanding on talent:

  • The Purdue Foundry helps emerging entrepreneurs leverage their education and research skills so their dreams can be fully realized in the marketplace. Within two weeks of Purdue’s “work from home” decision, the Foundry Grounds became Foundry Grounds Remote – meeting online with Foundry members to discuss raising money, market research, and valuable experiences.  
    • Previously,  its primary educational program, Firestarter, required 2.5-3 months for entrepreneurs to complete, and was conducted on campus; now the program requires only one month and has no geographic limitations. 
    • Consequently, despite the pandemic, the Foundry has now helped the highest overall count of startups in its history. Since inception, the Foundry has served a total of 306 companies and, in FY2020, it has served 22 IP-based and 33 non-IP based companies. 
    • Recently, Foundry has moved Market Discovery to earlier in its process. The sooner entrepreneurs determine the right market, the sooner their company can deliver its solution. One Foundry company, Penguin Innovations, markets a standards-compliant virtual cleanroom initially designed to train pharmacy technicians, pharmacy students and pharmacy practitioners in the safe and accurate preparation of sterile injectable compounds. Since the surface of COVID-19, Penguin Innovations is now serving a new demographic and engaging 10 school districts. 
  • Purdue Polytechnic High School is a tuition-free, STEM-focused public charter school established by Purdue University offering a student-driven curriculum designed to ensure graduates have skills in demand by top colleges as well as today’s employers. PPHS is serving a diverse range of Indiana students who will succeed after graduation, either in a professional career or at a four-year college. In 2019, PPHS Downtown (Indianapolis) served 38.8% white students, 38.8% black students, 18.5% Hispanic students, 1% Asian students, and 1.9% not specified.  
  • Purdue University Global’s mission is to serve working adult students by enrolling them in certificate and associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree programs. Students receive high-quality, online, customized higher education opportunities. With 62% of students over the age of 30 and 63% having a child or other dependent, Purdue Global directly serves the non-traditional learner. Purdue Global helps family financial security, while building the work skills to meet employer needs. Graduates’ median salary increase is 40%.    
    • In May, Purdue Global began delivering a non-credit short course in COVID-19 Contact Tracing, which will be free through September. Designed to meet standards set by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control, its curriculum includes: strategies to reduce the spread of the disease, contact-tracing protocols and legal requirements, effective risk communication, and analytical skills for quality improvement. 
    • As of July 24, the course’s landing page has received 15,243 unique visitors; 5,925 people have registered for the course and 1,768 have successfully completed the course. Higher education and state governments are now requesting it for their use. 

Throughout all these initiatives, Purdue University consistently listens and communicates with our stakeholders. And, perhaps most importantly, we measure our outcomes. All these efforts are vital to building trust outside of academia and, ultimately, the foundation we need to steadily respond to unexpected demands. 

Being recognized as an “economically engaged” university by APLU is very meaningful because it will reflect the trust and commitment Purdue shares with our many stakeholders. We are pleased to be named as a finalist for the 2020 IEP Talent award which we hope will energize our partners, showcase our shared impact, and inspire more connections. 

This article is included as part of APLU's Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Perspectives Blog. Read other articles around strategies, programs, and impact of APLU's IEP designees at Earn APLU’s IEP designation. Learn more at 

  • IEP

Subscribe to RSS