The nation’s leading organization for university-led economic development has chosen a partnership between Northern Illinois University (NIU) and Rock Valley College (RVC) as this year’s best example of improving a community through local talent development. The University Economic Development Association (UEDA) has honored NIU Engineering @ RVC with an Award of Excellence for Talent and Place Development.
Now in its second year, the community-based, industry-integrated engineering program marks a new level of collaboration between higher education and industry to address a looming engineering talent shortage in the Rockford area. Rockford area students take their first two years of engineering courses at Rock Valley College, then transition seamlessly to courses taught by NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology faculty on the campus of RVC. Students gain valuable experience in paid internships with local companies and can access scholarship funds raised by Rockford-area supporters of the program.
The prestigious UEDA Award of Excellence recognizes outstanding, leading-edge higher education initiatives promoting economic development and engagement. The Talent and Place category honors initiatives that synergistically connect talent and place in ways that enrich the discourse, promote civic participation and otherwise enhance quality of place. Award finalists in each category are selected by a national team of judges and finalists present their initiatives during the UEDA
Annual Summit. UEDA members attending the Summit select the award recipients based on the finalists’ presentations. Rena Cotsones, NIU Associate Vice President for Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, made the presentation on behalf of all the project partners: NIU, RVC, Woodward, UTC Aerospace Systems, Rockford Area Economic Development Council, and Transform Rockford.
“NIU Engineering @ RVC is a great example of the impact higher education and industry can make by working together on behalf of the region,” said Lisa Freeman, Acting President of Northern Illinois University. “Students win by gaining access to great educational experiences, employers win by gaining access to talent and the region wins by strengthening a critical sector of the economy.”
“From the beginning, we have known that NIU Engineering @ RVC is a game changer for the Rockford region. The community has responded enthusiastically by helping us raise more than $6 million in support of this program,” said Sagar Patel, President, Aircraft Turbine Systems, Woodward and chairman of the Engineering our Future campaign. “The external validation of the innovative work we are doing together is gratifying.”
“Development of the regional workforce is a major focus for the community and for us as an institution,” said Douglas Jensen, President of Rock Valley College. “Ensuring the pipeline of engineering and high-tech talent is best accomplished as a collaborative endeavor. NIU Engineering @ RVC is the result of a unique collaboration that will provide a springboard for future opportunities.”
NIU Engineering @ RVC has won support from numerous organizations and individuals in the region, most notably the Woodward Charitable Trust, Clark Legacy Foundation and the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. Make a gift to the Engineering our Future campaign to support capital renovations, program faculty and scholarships for NIU Engineering @ RVC or learn more.