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NIU receives economic development honor

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

Just weeks after receiving formal designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University, NIU has received one of the nation’s top awards for regional economic development.

The Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities announced NIU won the association’s inaugural “Place” award for “excelling in community, social and cultural development work.”    

Association president Peter McPherson called NIU’s work in broadband development, school-university partnerships and manufacturing revival “a great example of a public university giving back to its community and state in ways that strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for residents of that state.” 

In addition to NIU, winners of the four economic prosperity awards included the University of Michigan, the State University of New York, and the University of Cincinnati.

“Engagement with our communities and regions has always been the defining characteristic of America’s top public universities,” NIU President Doug Baker said in a news release. “To be held up as one of the best in this endeavor, in the company of some of our country’s finest institutions, is a tremendous honor.”

Universities were scored by a panel of reviewers representing other universities and also national partners. Scoring was based on criteria emphasizing universities’ development of their economic engagement enterprise, their planning efforts around economic engagement, strategic communications around these efforts, and participation in encouraging economic engagement among peer institutions.

“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,” Anne Kaplan, vice president for Outreach, Engagement and Information Technologies, said in the release.

Three case studies anchor the application: NIU’s decade-long effort to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to the region; the Center for P-20 Engagement, which connects partners such as schools and government agencies with NIU resources; and engagement in economic development efforts in Rockford.

“In all three of these case studies, what we see is a commitment to innovation,” Lisa Freeman, vice president of Research and Graduate Studies and Interim Provost, said in the release. “At NIU, we are both doing new things, and doing old things in new ways, always with a focus on creating value.”

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