CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The University of Northern Iowa was just announced as an Excellence and Innovation Award winner by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). This awards program, now in its fourth year, honors member institutions for excellence and innovation in several major areas of campus life and leadership.
Leadership in regional and economic development; student success and college completion; sustainability and sustainable development; teacher education; international education; and leadership development and diversity will be honored with these awards. UNI received the Regional and Economic Development Award for its Regional Entrepreneurship Project (REP).
In just four years, UNI's Regional Entrepreneurship Project has positively impacted 17 Iowa counties in five economically challenged regions. The project develops a customized strategic plan in each region that assists local leadership by providing research on types of business owners, economic trends and available local services. This enables entrepreneurial development to fight economic distress from population declines, plant closings/layoffs and/or natural disasters.
Led by UNI’s Institute for Decision Making, REP involves university programs, local economic development organizations and chambers of commerce, community colleges, K through 12 school districts, small business development centers, regional councils of government, and other local and statewide entities. So far, over 130 key community stakeholders have participated in regional strategic planning. The regions report 187.5 new jobs, 46 new or expanded businesses, and over $6.7 million of private investment as a result of the program.
“The Institute for Decision Making and the Center for Business Growth and Innovation are both honored to be recognized," said Andrew Conrad, director of UNI's Institute for Decision Making. "The Regional Entrepreneurship Project is truly a team effort, and we are fortunate to have strong partners in each of the five regions who are committed to fostering economic growth in their communities and regions.”
Criteria for the winning entries in the awards competition required evidence of top-level administrative support, connection with an institution’s mission and strategic agenda, evidence the initiative contributed to significant institutional improvements or programming, and evidence the initiative was grounded in research and incorporated best practices. The awards will be presented Oct. 22 at the opening session of AASCU's Annual Meeting in La Jolla, California.