Montana State University

MSU wins national award for its education and workforce development initiatives

November 14, 2016 -- By Anne Cantrell, 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 won the “talent” category of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ fourth annual Innovation and Economic Prosperity Awards. The APLU recognized MSU for three areas of institutional strength in economic engagement: for the university’s efforts to develop the photonics and optics industry in the Gallatin Valley, for a host of programs that illustrate MSU’s dedication to serving Native American populations and for the university’s efforts to advance entrepreneurship. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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BOZEMAN — The nation’s oldest higher education association has named Montana State University the winner of a national award that recognizes a public research university’s exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development.

MSU won the “talent” category of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ fourth annual Innovation and Economic Prosperity Awards. It was one of six universities to be named a finalist for the awards; those six universities competed for four different awards that recognize different components of university economic engagement: talent, innovation, place and connections. The association announced the winners Nov. 13 at its annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

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. 

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

“We are honored to be named the winner of this prestigious award,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “Montana State University works in close partnership with our local, statewide and global communities to help address real concerns and improve the human condition, and the award indicates that this important work is having a real impact.”

“This award recognizes activity that is extremely well-aligned with two goals of MSU’s strategic planengagement and integration,” said Renee Reijo Pera, MSU vice president for research and economic development. “We’re proud to be recognized for these efforts.”

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. In addition to the talent award given to MSU (the other finalist was the University of Massachusetts Lowell), Purdue University won the innovation award, which honors an institution demonstrating outstanding work in technology transfer, entrepreneurship and business development; Colorado State University won the place award, which recognizes a university that excels in community, social and cultural development work; and Arizona State University won the connections award, which 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 recognizes the important partnerships MSU has established in our local and statewide communities,” said Rebecca Mahurin, manager of special projects in the MSU Division of Health Sciences. “Our collaborations not only provide training opportunities for our students, but they also positively impact the economy of Montana.”

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

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