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APLU & USU Announce New Grants to Advance 21st Century Skills Development Through University-Community Partnerships

Washington, DC – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) today announced grants to the University of New Orleans, the University of Memphis, and Cal State LA that will further their partnerships with local community organizations and businesses aimed at providing students with the skills they’ll need to successfully enter the workforce upon graduation.

“We know the pandemic has only accelerated demand for 21st Century Skills,” said Christel Perkins, Deputy Executive Director of USU and Assistant Vice President at APLU. “We’re excited to support three institutions with leading-edge efforts to pilot and scale efforts to create stronger pathways between college coursework and career pathways.”

All projects in the Collaborative Opportunity Grant program must center on a collaboration between a public university and an external organization such as another university, community colleges, school districts, businesses, or local governments.

This set of grants, known as Collaborative Opportunity Grants, are designed to support emerging and/or innovative university-community partnerships that transform university practices, programs, policies, and culture to improve 21st Century skills curricula and transferability to the workforce. The initiatives are targeted at supporting low-income, first time in college students.

The three institutions awarded grants have existing efforts focused on Charting 21st Century Pathway Partnerships. Each institution will receive $50,000 to collaborate, accelerate, and improve implementation of the efforts. The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation supports the work.

More information on the grantees and their programs is below.

University of New Orleans
The University of New Orleans (UNO) is partnering with GNO, Inc., the region’s economic development organization, to cultivate relationships with local industry leaders and gather their input on an information literacy curriculum and a digital badge that will be offered to all of UNO’s undergraduate students. Information literacy develops the soft skills to integrate, apply, and communicate information from a variety of fields to a variety of audiences. Such skills are immensely helpful to a student working towards a college degree and after graduation when they are looking to establish and grow a career. Through a UNO Information Literacy Summer Institute (ILSI), UNO faculty will receive in-depth, expert training on information literacy, participate in course development workshops, and be paired with appropriate partner organizations who will host experiential learning projects that operationalize information literacy skills. Through innovative thinking and strategic collaboration, UNO will create the information literate workforce needed in the region.

University of Memphis
The University of Memphis is connecting early with freshmen and educating them on the career development process. This includes engaging these first-year students to help them begin to integrate career decision making with academic tracks and walk students through the “5As process”: awareness, acquiring, applying, advancing and articulating. Upon completion, students will be aware of, understand, and know how to attain 21st Century Skills. Students in these courses will also have opportunities to network and discuss 21st Century skills with area professionals. Additionally, the University of Memphis is providing a faculty toolkit and training to provide resources related to the 21st Century Skills, information about the modules and strategies for incorporating modules into their courses. Workshops and a summer institute will support faculty in incorporating 21st Century Skills into their courses.

Cal State LA
Cal State LA’s College of Business and Economics is partnering with the Center for Engagement, Service & the Public Good (CES&PG) to pilot a new special topics course on 21st Century Professional Skills called Professional Fundamentals that will help students develop and foster professional skills such as data and media literacy, financial literacy, critical thinking, leadership, collaboration, and research. Professional Fundamentals will include a hands-on, project-based requirement where students will have a chance to work in partnership with the YMCA in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Corridor on a mutually beneficial project that improves student success while supporting the Crenshaw Corridor, an underserved community within Los Angeles.

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