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Meet APLU’s Office of Economic Development and Community Engagement

APLU’s Office of Economic Development and Community Engagement leads APLU’s work to improve the effectiveness of APLU member efforts to promote economic vitality, civic engagement, and quality of life in the communities they serve. The office also facilitates the Commission on Economic and Community Engagement, convening senior university officials who are responsible for planning, executing, or communicating their institution’s work in economic development and public engagement. Get to know the staff in the Office of Economic Development and Community Engagement.

Image of Sheila MartinSheila Martin,Vice President, Economic Development and Community Engagement

Why did you join APLU? There are really two reasons that I joined APLU. The first is that, like my colleagues, I believe strongly in the mission of public research universities. I have benefitted a great deal from my public research university education, and I want those benefits to be available to future generations.

But what stands out about APLU is the opportunity to have leverage due to APLU’s network of institutions. We can support our members to improve outcomes for students and communities. And as we learn more about what’s most effective in improving those outcomes, we can help each institution adapt those practices to their specific circumstances: their student demographics, their local economies, and their institutional strengths and challenges.

The area that I work in, economic development and community engagement, is a powerful tool for strengthening the impact of public universities. Engaged learning strengthens student success and engagement in research leads to stronger public impacts from that research. Institutions engaged in their communities have aligned their workforce and innovation efforts with those of the local community—meaning that the technologies they develop and the students they graduate benefit the local economy. As we help universities find stronger connections within their communities, we strengthen the effectiveness of their core missions of teaching and research as well.

What work underway are you most excited about at the association? I am very excited about our new work in rural student success. Rural students are an underrepresented demographic at our institutions, but not enough people look at it in that way. My background in rural economic development allows me to integrate my interest in helping rural students find their career passion with my interest in building more resilient rural communities.

What’s your favorite thing to do on your day off? I like to bike around the D.C. region and then cook a great meal. If the weather isn’t bikeable, then a good read or visit to a brew pub, plus good food is always an option. I also love the DC music scene, especially the great roots music. I still haven’t seen the Go-Go Symphony.

What’s the last book you read? I’m currently working on the book Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It’s an interesting bit of economic history, as salt has been a huge factor in the global economy since people began trading. And as a cook, I am fascinated by some of the very old recipes that it contains – for example, how to prepare salt cod, and how to make ketchup, which was originally based on salted anchovies.

Image of ShalinShalin Jyotishi,Assistant Director, Economic Development and Community Engagement

Why did you join APLU? I joined APLU to work with inspirational, mission-driven thinkers and doers committed to maximizing the full economic and societal impact of universities. I really appreciate APLU’s actionable approach to its projects or research that’s almost always done in partnership and service to our members and their communities.

What work underway are you most excited about at the association? I’m a bit biased since it’s a personal research focus, but I’m very excited about APLU’s growing emphasis on helping our members promote 21st century skills, workforce development, and better bridge education and work.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that I’m excited by the growth and enhancement of our Innovation and Economic Prosperity designation program, which helps institutions strengthen their strategy and practices across economic and community development. We now have 66 IEP designees with 30 institutions pursuing the designation. The program was just spotlighted in Forbes for its role in helping institutions strengthen their ability to respond to COVID-19.

What education or work experience had the greatest impact on you? I’m very grateful for my experiences in entrepreneurship. As CEO of the Journal of Science Policy and Governance (JSPG), a non-profit organization and peer-review journal focused on early career researchers working on policy topics, I gained a great deal of knowledge, skills, and abilities that I wouldn’t have been able to gain through traditional education and work experiences. JSPG celebrated our 10-year anniversary this year.

I’m also grateful for my consulting experiences and my work as a University Innovation Fellow at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute for Design through which I got to work and learn alongside faculty, administrators, and students who are dedicated to fully realizing the potential of entrepreneurship at colleges and universities around the world.

What’s your go to activity when you want to relax? Spending time with friends and family for sure.

What’s the first thing you do when you look at your phone in the morning? I’ll admit, Twitter! For a scan of what I tend to read in the morning, I’m at @ShalinJyotishi.

Image of Milan EphraimMilan Ephraim,Program Assistant, Economic Development and Community Engagement

Why did you join APLU?

Without my education at both a local community college and a state university (College of the Desert and Cal State Monterey Bay), I would never have made it to D.C. for graduate-level study. Working at APLU is a great way to support the institutions that helped change the trajectory of my life.

What work underway are most excited about at the association? Our office recently took over the administration of the C. Peter Magrath & W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and I am very excited to be part of the process. APLU members are doing amazing work in their local communities and I’m beyond pleased to see their work recognized.

What’s your go to activity when you want to relax? I am a huge fan of going on long walks after work. One of my favorite routes runs past the Washington Monument, to the Southwest Waterfront. This 1.6-mile jaunt usually ends at local restaurant Tiki TNT overlooking the river, where I nosh on Dan Dan Noodles and sip the WWII-era cocktail Three Dots and a Dash.

What is the best movie you’ve seen recently? The French film Portrait of a Lady on Fire was visually stunning. It is always interesting to watch a period piece that revels in the quietness of the time while still portraying intense emotions. I especially loved how the director purposefully included shots that illustrated how difficult painting can really be.

Image of AbigailAbigail Robbins,Associate, Innovation and Economic Prosperity and Governmental Affairs

Why did you join APLU? As a recent graduate of the University of Vermont, I know how integral public and land-grant universities are in preparing students and faculty to solve issues of every scale. I wanted my first job out of undergrad to be at an organization that makes a positive impact on the world. I believe the work APLU does to support and advance the objectives of these universities is meaningful.

What work underway are you most excited about at the association? I’m excited to work with different universities through APLU’s Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) designation program. This designation enables universities to better know, measure, tell, and enhance their economic and community development impact.

What is your favorite thing about living in DC? I love to run by the National Mall and Capitol Hill while listening to podcasts. It gives me the opportunity to stay up to date on news, get exercise, and appreciate some of D.C.’s beautiful architecture and green space.

What’s the last book you read? Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead by Madeleine Kunin, the former Governor of Vermont.

  • Commission on Economic & Community Engagement

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