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APLU Names Six Public Universities as Finalists for 2019 Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities Awards

Washington, DC – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named six universities as finalists for its seventh annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards. The winners will be announced at the association’s annual meeting, which will be held November 10-12 in San Diego, California. The finalists – California State University, Northridge; the University of Michigan; North Carolina State University; Purdue University; the University of South Florida and Wayne State University – are competing for four different awards that recognize different components of university economic engagement:

  • North Carolina State University and Wayne State University are finalists for the IEP Talent award, recognizing exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development.
  • The University of Michigan and the University of South Florida are finalists for the IEP Innovation award, recognizing exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-based economic development.
  • California State University, Northridge and Purdue University are finalists for the IEP Place award for exemplary initiatives resulting in social, cultural, or community development.
  • The IEP Economic Engagement Connections award is the top-prize in the awards competition, recognizing overall excellence and leveraging across all three award categories. All six category finalists are contenders for the Connections award.

As described in APLU’s Economic Engagement Framework – a series of tools and publications that helps institutions plan, assess, and communicate their work in economic engagement, universities collaborate with their public and private sector partners in their states and regions to promote economic growth, competitiveness and opportunity through a variety of efforts across the aforementioned categories.

“We applaud this year’s Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards finalists for their exceptional contributions to regional economic engagement,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Their work demonstrates what’s possible when public universities collaborate with other stakeholders to drive progress in their communities. We’re thrilled to recognize their work.”

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from APLU. To receive that designation, universities conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. As part of the self-study, each institution identifies areas for growth and improvement within its economic engagement enterprise and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners. Sixty-five institutions have been named IEP Universities designees since the program was launched in 2012.

More information on the finalists’ economic engagement initiatives is below.

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) created a host of programs driving social, cultural, and community development. Recognizing that many students from a local high school in a low-income area weren’t planning on attending college because they didn’t have the experiences and tools necessary to do so, CSUN surveyed the community to determine how it could increase college enrollment and attainment. Faculty visited nonprofits and schools, talked to community leaders, and mapped out the neighborhood’s assets and social challenges. As expected, their review determined that financial issues were the biggest barrier to college access and CSUN launched the Bridge to the Future (B2F) program to address them. The program provides a four-year, tuition-free education to a cohort of students from the school district. CSUN also educates families about accessing financial aid and navigating the university’s policies while providing a range of mentoring and support activities. B2F students are expected to give back to their communities by participating in service activities and mentoring younger students. The first cohort in 2017 was comprised of 28 students earning an average GPA of 3.40. The second cohort in 2018 is comprised of 25 students who earned an average 3.1 GPA. As new cohorts are launched, CSUN is aiming to have 100 students per year in the program.

The University of Michigan has launched a set of programs to help spur innovation and startup creation. Its Small Company Innovation Program (SCIP) launched in 2015 to help emerging companies overcome common challenges – such as providing research, development, and testing support – so entrepreneurs have what they need to succeed. The program connects companies to researchers and labs at the state’s public universities, which often have facilities and expertise that companies desperately need but are unable to identify or afford. The program’s team identifies university research partners and co-funds projects statewide through a network of 15 public universities called the Michigan Corporate Relations Network. SCIP project managers build relationships with tech transfer and business engagement professionals as well as STEM academics at most universities who can assist companies with engagement of an appropriate faculty member. Student research associates provide competitive landscape analysis for the client, which also helps inform the program’s funding decisions. SCIP is funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and administered by the University of Michigan’s Economic Growth Institute. To date, SCIP has facilitated 80 collaborative projects involving nearly 70 companies that led to over $1.7 million in awards.

North Carolina State University has taken a multipronged approach to developing talent that fuels economic development. The NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic works to integrate research, teaching, and work-and-learning opportunities to help students build the next generation of businesses in Raleigh. Students observe startup founders leading firms at various stages of development. The clinic provides courses and practice for both undergraduate and graduate students across multiple disciplines, including business, engineering, design, textiles, agriculture, and computer science. Since the program launched in 2015 with just nine students in its inaugural year, the clinic has increased service to include nearly 800 students representing 22 majors. The program has seen 21 percent growth in student participation semester over semester and had 169 students develop projects during the Fall 2018 semester. Since 2015, 17 student startups have launched, raising over $5.6 million in outside funding to assist with student startups. The clinic received the 2018 Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation Award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Purdue University launched its Center for Regional Development in 2005 to deepen its economic engagement across the state and region. The center leads a variety of initiatives to address the unique needs of each community it works in and spur development across the state. Partnering with Ball State University, the center’s Hometown Collaboration Initiative works to grow local capacity in leadership and economic placemaking. The effort has worked with 19 Indiana communities, leading to the development of community parks, entrepreneur resources, and neighborhood revitalization. The effort places particular emphasis on sparking civic spirit in the state’s rural areas. It has recruited 400 Hoosiers to serve on local coordinating committees and drawn more than 1,200 residents to community forums. The effort has resulted in 12,000 hours of volunteering. The Purdue Center for Regional Development also conducted the most exhaustive study ever undertaken on the benefits and costs of providing broadband to households in rural Indiana. The study prompted Governor Holcomb to pursue a $100 million investment to expand broadband to unserved areas of Indiana. The center has teamed with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to develop and implement Rural Broadband Planning Grants.

The University of South Florida (USF) worked with community partners to drive development in the underutilized center of downtown Tampa. The city’s downtown long suffered from urban sprawl and a central business district disconnected from growing residential areas. Working with community partners, USF Health’s new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute is anchoring the construction of Water Street Tampa – a $3 billion urban business, innovation, residential and tourist destination. Once completed in late 2019, the new USF medical education and research building will host world-class labs, advanced experiential learning spaces, and research facilities. The medical school will help cultivate growth in the area with an estimated 2,275 faculty, researchers, staff and students. Highly skilled young professionals will help attract companies in health, science, and technology as well as a host of service sector businesses aiming to cater to the faculty and students’ living and working needs. Covering the development, Politico Magazine noted that “the USF med school as an anchor…help[ing] seed the place with an estimated 2,275 faculty, researchers, staff and students…This is the kind of partnership that has helped remake cities such as Roanoke and Winston-Salem, both of which drew substantial investments from nearby universities and research institutions.”

Wayne State University is engaged in city-wide and regional initiatives to improve workforce participation rates and increase the proportion of individuals with high-skill credentials and college degrees. Research from the National Institute for Literacy revealed that 47 percent of the city’s residents lack basic literacy skills. Recognizing the far-reaching impact of illiteracy on the community, the university established the Office of Adult Literacy in 2012 and launched the Harris Literacy Program in 2013. With the underlying goal of workforce development, the program provides adult basic education to help members of the Detroit community reach their academic goals and make steps toward greater self-sufficiency. In 2018, the program provided services to 160 English language and 150 math students, leading to 26 students enrolling in G.E.D. classes. The literacy center has served more than 1,700 Detroiters since 2013. Additionally, Wayne State launched a suite of programs in 2018-19 to help adults with some college, but no degree. The university has identified and is reaching out to nearly 53,000 individuals, encouraging them to return to school. Through a pioneering debt-forgiveness program, innovative pathways including reverse transfer, and strong partnerships with community colleges, Wayne State is driving a talent development agenda and paving the way for students to earn their bachelor as well as their associate’s degrees. As a result of these city-wide and regional collaborations in which Wayne State is playing a leading role, Detroit was recently recognized as a Talent Hub by the Lumina Foundation.

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