Local colleges win $1 million grants

December 6th, 2013

News Coverage:

Local colleges win $1 million grants

Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 7:42 am, Fri Dec 6, 2013.

By Linda Lipp

A group of northeast Indiana colleges and universities pooled their resources to help each win a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.

The grants to Trine University, the University of Saint Francis, Huntington University, Manchester University, Grace College and Indiana Tech were announced Thursday by Lilly. They are among 39 Indiana institutions that will receive a total of nearly $63 million for programs to help increase the number of state residents with bachelor’s degrees and help graduates attain higher skilled jobs.

Goshen College also will receive a $1 million award. The Ivy Tech Foundation will receive nearly $5 million, and the Indiana University Foundation and Purdue Research Foundation are getting $5 million each.

The grants are being offered as part of the Lilly Endowment’s Initiative to Promote Opportunities Through Educational Collaborations. The grant application process goes back to 2012, when Lilly offered planning grants to the colleges and universities to come up with proposals for programs Lilly might help fund.

In May, the endowment rejected all of the proposals and told the schools to try harder.

Calling themselves the “College to Career Action Team,” the northeast Indiana schools coordinated their reapplications through the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and the Questa Foundation, which offers educational loans to students that are partially forgiven if the students remain in the area after graduation.

Although each school offered a specific proposal, they also all reflected the shared goal of promoting economic development through education, said Andrew Prall, vice president of academic affairs at USF.

USF’s proposal has three main components. First, “we want to reinvent career services as career outreach and connect to employers,” he said.

The second is to develop an insurance/risk management bachelor’s degree program that will be offered at USF’s developing downtown Fort Wayne campus.

Employers are being included in that development process, Prall said.

Finance and insurance services are a key employment sector in northeast Indiana, and research shows that a number of professionals in the insurance industry will be retiring in the next five years, noted Trois Hart, USF associate vice president, marketing. USF also plans to offer a concentration in insurance/risk management as part of a business degree beginning this spring.

Third, USF plans to use some of the Lilly funding on the implementation of its Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts program, which will utilize project based learning teams — again with employer involvement.

Huntington University will use its funds to expand and enhance its existing entrepreneurial program and create new opportunities through Fast Forward, a new entrepreneurial program that will launch in 2014.

Fast Forward will offer current and future Huntington students a regionally unique program for career exploration, idea cultivation, entrepreneurial encouragement and applied work experience, the university said. It also will help to stimulate the local economy by creating jobs through groundbreaking business ideas from students in the program.

“This is a new and exciting opportunity for Huntington University and the broader community,” said Troy Irick, vice president for HU Ventures. “In its most complete form, Fast Forward will provide the greater Northeast Indiana region not only job creation but new business formation and commercial application of entrepreneurial ideas as well.”

The program will work in collaboration with the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center in Fort Wayne. Under the leadership of CEO Karl LePan, students will be challenged to build teams, develop commercially viable ideas, present their ideas to potential investors and create a network of fellow entrepreneurs for mentoring and collaboration.

Fast Forward also will work with Huntington North High School’s Viking New Tech program to allow a select number of high school students the opportunity to participate.

The Indiana Tech grant to will support three initiatives. Half will go to the Center for Creative Collaboration, an interdisciplinary assistance center for entrepreneurs and small business startups that will bring community mentors together with faculty and students from the business, engineering and law schools.

Most of the remainder will be used to expand and enhance career services, with the remaining $75,000 earmarked for implementation of “backwards design,” a curriculum development approach that will help match its education programs with the needs of today’s employers.

Details of the programs planned by the other area colleges and universities were not immediately available.