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Three Public Universities Each Win $10,000 from APLU/USU Innovation Pitch Challenge

Cleveland State University,University of Louisville Receive Funds to Advance Economic Engagement Efforts on Campus

Cleveland State University, the University of Houston and the University of Louisville each won $10,000 to support economic engagement efforts on their campuses as part of the APLU/Coalition of Urban Serving Universities’ (USU) Innovation Pitch Challenge. The three universities were among 11 institutions that competed for a pot of $30,000 last month at the 127th APLU Annual Meeting.

The competition, funded by Lumina Foundation, was conceived as a way to address one of the biggest challenges facing both higher education and the business community: addressing the seeming lack of alignment between what a student learns and what employers need. University representatives pitched innovations on ways to strengthen the university–employer relationships to a panel of experts.

The three highest ranked institutions received seed money to further develop their idea, scale their project, or launch their initiative. Eleven universities pitched ideas to a panel of five judges from philanthropy, business and higher education. The judges could distribute up to $30,000 in any way those chose to up to three institutions.

Cleveland State University’s “Career Pathways Orientation” was presented by Byron White, vice president for university engagement. Cleveland State’s concept looks to identify 12 to 14 career pathways that connect students’ majors with jobs offered in the labor market. The pathways, which students will select before they choose a major, offer competences shared across a range of employment opportunities. Marketing, sales and services is one example of a pathway.

The University of Houston’s program, “Innovations for Educating the Energy Workforce,” was presented by Ramanan Krishnamarti, chief energy officer. The project, which is part of a comprehensive initiative to train energy workers for the regional workforce, centers on creating stackable credentials that can help mid-skill energy workers obtain undergraduate degrees. The program will be piloted with military veterans.

University of Louisville’s “Institute for Product Realization—Connecting Education, Research and Job Creation” was presented by Neville Pinto, dean of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. The project looks to reimagine product development by connecting university research, a digital co-creation platform, a microfactory that couples engineering students and employers, and a launch pad that provides entrepreneurial opportunities. The vision is for multidiscplinary student and faculty digital co-creation teams to work globally with industry experts to accelerate innovation and product development.

The judges for the pitch challenge were:

  • Dorothy H. Air, Associate Vice President for Entrepreneurial Affairs and Technology Commercialization, University of Cincinnati
  • Chester N. Kennedy, Vice President and Chief Engineer of Training and Logistics Solutions, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training
  • Nicole McDonald, Strategy Officer, Lumina Foundation
  • William M. Sherman, Senior Vice President and Provost/COO, University of Akron
  • Ed Smith-Lewis, Associate Program Officer, Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Learn more about the work of the APLU’s Coalition on Urban Serving Universities.

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