NIU honored for economic development programs

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is among the first 16 institutions nationwide designated as an “Innovation and Economic Prosperity University” by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).

The designation acknowledges universities working with public and private sector partners to support economic development in their state or region. In addition, NIU was named one of six national finalists for APLU’s inaugural Innovation and Economic Prosperity Award.

“Universities are economic engines that not only directly employ people, but also generate research-based innovation and technical expertise that allow businesses to start up, grow, and thrive,” said APLU President Peter McPherson.

“This designation recognizes universities that are really stepping up to strengthen their local economy,” he said.

The extensive award application was a joint project of the Division of Outreach and Engagement and the Division of Research and Graduate Studies. The application focused on three case studies: broadband development, the P-20 (pre-school through graduate school) initiative, and engagement efforts in Rockford.

“Like our Carnegie designations, the APLU title defines a level of excellence in how we serve our community and our region,” said NIU President Doug Baker. “It further affirms to students and their families that NIU is on the cutting edge of real-world education.”

Other universities to receive the designation include the University of Michigan, Ohio State, University of Georgia, State University of New York, University of Missouri and the University of Idaho.

“To be placed in the company of America’s top public universities in this effort sends a message about the centrality of engagement to the overall mission of the modern public university,” said Anne Kaplan, vice president for outreach and engagement.

NIU’s application describes how the institution serves a region that is simultaneously urban, suburban and rural, and how it forges both public and private partnerships that benefit all parties.

The APLU competition required universities to describe both accomplishments and challenges. To that end, NIU’s application includes a “growth and improvement” section that outlines how the university intends to maintain momentum in its regional engagement efforts.

“Highlighting this kind of work is critical to developing a sustainable culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among our students and faculty,” said Lisa Freeman, vice president of Research and Graduate Studies.

“It really requires us to consistently focus on what works, why it works, and what it will take to do more of it.”