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Friday, December 05, 2008

Lilly Endowment grant will fund collaboration in business and engineering

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Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded the University of Southern Indiana a five-year $500,000 sustaining grant for the Initiative to Promote Opportunities through Educational Collaborations. The grant will support curriculum development, career and professional training initiatives, service learning projects, and entrepreneurial projects that promote collaboration between USI’s College of Business and the Department of Engineering within the Pott College of Science and Engineering.

In 2003, USI received a $1 million Lilly Endowment grant for the first phase of the initiative. This grant created scholarships for junior- and senior-level engineering students who sought and accepted co-op positions with Indiana firms; created incentives for Indiana firms to offer co-op opportunities by providing partial-wage subsidies for participating co-op students; and provided a challenge to donors to contribute toward development of a new $1 million endowment for the engineering program.

Dr. Linda L.M. Bennett, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said USI has realized many unexpected benefits from the 2003 grant. “We expected the grant to increase the number of co-op placements and establish new relationships with firms that employ engineers, but we were surprised by the rapid development of research relationships with the various firms, businesses, and manufacturing entities,” she said. “This initiative has increased stakeholder awareness of and interest in faculty expertise. As a result, some unique research relationships have been established between the USI engineering faculty and businesses in healthcare and manufacturing sectors. In fact, the existence of a vibrant co-op program with the possibility of research opportunities has been important in new faculty recruitment.”

The University has established co-op relationships with 56 participating employers and six more are in development. Surveys reveal that both students and employers are highly satisfied with the program. Students with co-op experience are sought out by area companies. The increased visibility of the USI engineering program has resulted in increased student interest in engineering with nearly 300 students currently enrolled in the program. Pledge commitments to the endowment are currently at $1,129,360, or 113 percent of the original goal.

The sustaining grant will provide funds for scholarships for engineering and business co-op students; incentives for employers to provide co-op opportunities; allocation to a co-op endowment; career and professional training initiatives; service learning projects; concept-to-commercialization projects; learning outcomes pertaining to collaboration proficiencies; and curriculum development.

USI President H. Ray Hoops said, “This grant allows our Engineering Department to continue its successful co-op program and extends that benefit to students in the College of Business and more area employers. Partnering with area businesses and firms is highly effective in keeping graduates in Indiana, where they can contribute to economic and community development. By providing the means to further collaboration between the Department of Engineering and the College of Business, the grant allows the University to further advance its STEM mission to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in southwest Indiana and encourage entrepreneurship in science and technology-related fields. These opportunities will be further enhanced by the opening of the Business and Engineering Center, expected to be completed in 2010.”

Wendy Knipe Bredhold
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