The University at Albany is an engine of opportunity — for our students and our home community.
We harness our unique mix of academic excellence, internationally recognized research and world-class faculty to empower our students, faculty and campus communities to author their own success.
The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities’ Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) designation process has provided UAlbany with an important opportunity to better know, measure and enhance a critical dimension of this success — the impact of our economic and community development work.
Our path to IEP designation has been intentional and has provided valuable feedback to help us on our journey to become the nation’s leading diverse public research university, providing the leaders, the knowledge and the innovations to create a better world. UAlbany views innovation and economic prosperity as a means of channeling the greatness of our students to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing society and the planet, from health equity to climate change.
Over the three-year IEP review process, we strived to integrate our work with UAlbany’s Strategic Plan and its five core priorities:
To start, our process was grounded in inclusion, with representation from every school and college as well as many of our faculty, staff and administrative units. Our self-study process was led by our Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED), which is part of our Division for Research and Economic Development. The workgroup consisted of membership from our schools, colleges, administrative and research units that utilized much of the existing framework of our successful Corporate Engagement Council. The goal of the self-study was to quantify and better understand UAlbany’s role in economic engagement and how our teaching and research advance that mission.
In the summer of 2020, UAlbany’s IEP workgroup undertook a comprehensive inventory of UAlbany programs that fell under the categories of talent, innovation and place, to form the basis of our Program Taxonomy document. The depth and breadth of our economic engagement enterprise is articulately depicted in this document, which maps over 120 unique programs and initiatives. This process was the first step toward establishing a baseline of our economic engagement activity.
The workgroup then began a two-step process to collect information from internal and external stakeholders consisting of an online survey and focus group discussions to dive deeper into the survey data. The group worked with UAlbany’s Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness to ensure that the methods would sound and would allow us to draw meaningful conclusions about each stakeholder group’s impressions of our baseline level of engagement. We selected external stakeholder organizations based their level of engagement with the University. Their feedback was then utilized to compile opinions of our strengths and opportunities for growth.
Both the University’s internal and external stakeholder surveys and focus groups drew similar conclusions. In summary, our greatest opportunity for growth is around telling our story in ways that better inform internal and external audiences about our major accomplishments. Essentially, we are our own best-kept secret in many of our programs and research areas, leading to some challenges in realizing our full potential. We also observed a widespread agreement among stakeholders that measuring economic engagement is a worthwhile endeavor, which speaks to the role a public research university plays in lifting the economic fortunes of its home community.
The data also provided critical feedback that helped the workgroup draw conclusions about the University’s primary accomplishments, growth and improvement opportunities. As a result, the IEP workgroup was able to assist the University’s strategic planning team as it began developing the framework for UAlbany’s next five-year strategic plan. In fact, many aspects of our growth and improvement plan for the IEP designation have been integrated with the draft metrics associated with the University’s strategic plan update.
In this way, our IEP application, which was informed by the University’s strategic plan from the beginning, is now playing an important role in shaping that plan moving forward.
Overall, the IEP self-study process was a challenging-yet-rewarding exercise that enabled us to better understand and quantify our economic engagement at what turned out to be a time of significant upheaval in higher education and the world more generally. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it turned out to be an opportune time to take stock of the University’s efforts to date, think strategically about where we want to go next, and ground that thinking in our core values.
At UAlbany, it’s not just about strengthening New York’s economy through our teaching, research, service and industry partnerships.
As President Havidán Rodríguez said when UAlbany’s IEP designation was announced, it’s about “helping build a thoughtful, skilled and diverse workforce from which our nation’s next generation of leaders will emerge.”
One of the things we are most proud of producing at UAlbany is strong leaders, without which there can be no prosperity.