Montana State University

MSU named a national finalist in annual Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards

October 24, 2016 -- From MSU News Service

A Montana State University engineering student works with silicon wafers in the Montana Microfabrication Facility. Facilities like this are frequently used by the Optical Technology Center, or OpTeC, one area that was central to MSU earning a designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University. After earning that designation, MSU is one of six public research institutions nationally to be named a finalist in the fourth annual Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards given by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The winners will be announced Nov. 13 at the association’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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BOZEMAN — Montana State University is one of six public research institutions nationally to be named a finalist in the fourth annual Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards given by The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

The winners will be announced Nov. 13 at the association’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas. Along with MSU, the finalist universities are Arizona State University, Colorado State University, Iowa State University, Purdue University and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The six universities are competing for four different awards that recognize different components of university economic engagement: talent, innovation, place and connections. 

Economic engagement efforts include universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities – innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development. 

“We are delighted to be recognized for efforts associated with these important partnerships,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “Montana State’s strategic plan identifies engagement and integration as two important goals for our university, and this award recognizes activity that is perfectly aligned with those goals. MSU works in close partnership with our local, statewide and global communities to help address real concerns and improve the human condition.”

“A central mission for public universities is to drive economic progress in the communities they serve. They fulfill that all-important task through workforce development, scientific research and partnerships with private sector stakeholders in their regions,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “The six finalists for the 2016 APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards have all demonstrated a clear commitment to economic engagement and have delivered contributions that are transforming their communities. APLU applauds them and looks forward to sharing their good work with other institutions as a resource for all public research universities to expand their economic engagement activities and help grow their regional economies.”

MSU was recognized for three areas of institutional strength in economic engagement. Those include the university’s efforts in developing the photonics and optics industry in the Gallatin Valley, a host of programs that illustrate MSU’s dedication to serving Native American populations, and the university’s efforts to advance entrepreneurship.

“MSU is extremely proud of the partnerships we have established in our local and statewide communities,” said Renee Reijo Pera, MSU vice president for research and economic development. “The university has also worked very hard to respond to the needs of industry.”

APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity (CICEP), which brings together public university leaders from around the country who are focused on economic engagement issues, is leading efforts to help public research universities plan, assess and communicate their work in local and regional economic development using the CICEP “Economic Engagement Framework.”  The framework includes tools for university self-assessment, metrics determination and economic impact analysis.

The IEP University Awards recognize specific emphases in these areas. The talent award (finalists are MSU and the University of Massachusetts Lowell) honors an institution with exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development; the innovation award (finalists are Iowa State University and Purdue University) honors an institution demonstrating outstanding work in technology transfer, entrepreneurship and business development; the place award (finalists are Arizona State University and Colorado State University) recognizes a university that is excelling in community, social and cultural development work; and the connections category (all six finalists are eligible for this award) recognizes the institution that is doing the most to build connections between all categories of economic engagement — innovation and entrepreneurship, talent development, and social, community, and cultural development.

To be eligible for an award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from APLU. To receive that designation, universities conduct a self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. As part of the self-study, each institution identified areas for growth and improvement within its economic engagement enterprise and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners. 

Applications for the designations were scored by a panel of independent reviewers representing other universities and also national partners. Scoring was based on a range of 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.  Overall, 55 institutions have been named IEP Universities designees since the program was launched in 2012.

Among other initiatives, APLU said MSU was recognized for partnering with a variety of Native American tribes to help students gain hands-on experience by providing health care to reservations in the remote reaches of Montana. MSU works with the tribes to identify and then address areas of critical need. For example, life expectancy for Native Americans in Montana is 22-25 years shorter than for white Montanans, in part due to disparities in access to health care. MSU’s College of Nursing helps its students gain experience by visiting reservations that lack adequate access to health care. To date, more than 10,000 medical exams and patient visits have been performed through this collaboration.

“This award is particularly meaningful because it indicates that we at Montana State really listen to our partners – to companies, to parents who want their children to succeed, to people on tribal reservations who need solutions to challenges. The university then develops programs to respond to those needs,” said Rebecca Mahurin, manager of special projects in the MSU Division of Health Sciences. “The results are more successful companies, graduates who find and create good jobs, and stronger, healthier tribal communities.” 

Contact: Rebecca Mahurin, manager of special projects, MSU Division of Health Sciences, (406) 994-2752 or rmahurin@montana.edu

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