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IEP Award Finalists Spotlight: Kansas State University and Virginia Commonwealth University

As part of its ongoing effort to help member institutions magnify their economic impact, APLU recently announced finalists for its 2023 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards. The awards honor institutions performing exemplary work to advance the economic wellbeing of their states, regions, and the nation in the areas of talent, place, innovation and connections. In this post, APLU spotlights Kansas State University and Virginia Commonwealth University. The IEP Award winners will be announced at the 2023 APLU Annual Meeting, November 12-14, in Seattle, WA.

Kansas State University (K-State) is working to address the needs of industry and society through a variety of efforts. K-State redefined its commitment to economic engagement through the launch and implementation of a bold Economic Prosperity Plan.

This initiative aims to improve the lives of Kansans by leveraging K-State to support job creation and direct economic impact and the university has committed to creating 3,000 new direct jobs and $3 billion in direct investment in the state by 2030. Efforts include the development of the Edge Collaboration District to deepen partnerships between the university and the community and inspire and foster academic-industry ties through colocation focused on research, talent, and commercial innovation.

Driven by its Economic Prosperity Plan to leverage institutional partnerships across every county in the state, the university is also building a hub for biosecurity and biodefense in the Animal Health Corridor to drive innovation and collaboration while working to address challenges facing the workforce, including affordable housing. Responding to a state-commissioned study on economic development that identified a lack of affordable housing as an impediment to further economic development, the university in partnership with community organizations helped to design, elevate, and scale innovative approaches to building affordable housing.

Virginia Commonwealth University advances educational and health equity and broad economic prosperity through community and economic engagement. The RTR program, a partnership between VCU and Richmond area school districts, recruits, prepares, supports, and retains teachers for high-need, hard-to-staff schools in critical shortage areas. RTR pairs teacher trainees with mentor teachers in the classroom for one year. 

A 2020 evaluation found the RTR-trained teachers are better prepared, better reflect student demographics, have significantly higher retention rates, and their students score higher on English, math and social studies end-of-year tests. VCU’s da Vinci Center for Innovation increases the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in the innovation and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Da Vinci pairs cross-disciplinary student teams with industry partners to solve real world problems and launched the Entrepreneurship Academy with local partners, awarding 1,830 innovation micro-credentials to 150 low-income, first-generation students, 50 community entrepreneurs, and 204 K12 students.

In VCU’s Richmond Health and Wellness Program, multi-disciplinary student teams assess and coordinate health and prevention services for low-income housing residents. More than 1,400 students have served more than 1,450 residents, resulting in improved health outcomes for residents and increased student readiness and interest in collaborative health care.

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