NWC must continue to establish strong, enduring, and multifaceted relationships with regional businesses and organizations. These relationships can take many forms such as responding to a local educational or research need; collaborating to reinvigorate civic culture; partnering to create mutually beneficial programs; and developing experiential learning opportunities. Increasing these relationships will enhance students’ educational experience and offer needed assistance to local businesses and organizations.
In addition, this opportunity can address such challenges as diversifying revenue streams; meeting student and public concerns about career preparation; increasing public respect for the college; promoting the value proposition of the college; and possibly lowering capital expenses.
Ideas from Other Institutions
Concordia University Texas created an Incubator for Innovation and Impact, which partners with local businesses to enable entrepreneurs to discover and execute business practices and ventures that are designed to make a positive impact on both local and global communities. They offer several services including co-working spaces, entrepreneur training, academic classes, and more.
Hood College in Maryland has initiated a program that works with the local interfaith community to develop community gardens to supply fresh food to low-income residents. The program partners with local nonprofits to create environmentally sustainable gardens that use excess storm water runoff for irrigation. The program draws students from theology, science, environmental studies, and agriculture.
Brevard College in North Carolina partners with a research institute to provide hands-on educational and research opportunities for students in STEM disciplines.
Suggestions for Northwestern
Our suggestion is for every program/major to look for an external connection. For example, can your class offer market research for local businesses or organizations? Can your department (with or without student aid) explore options to provide professional development? Can your class facilitate some consulting or research collaborations?
We need to identify “knowledge needs” in our community and region to increase the probability that our innovations will have real impact and be well accepted on and off campus. Knowledge is the primary asset of our college, our cultural capital, so we should do everything we can to connect it with community and regional needs.
This will also help NWC develop additional ways to integrate the “soft skills” that employers are seeking from our graduates. Our own survey research had over 100 businesses and organizations commenting on the top soft skills needed in their workplace: technology, teamwork, writing, creativity, leadership. By creating external connections for a course or program, the life skills or soft skills gap can be reduced and confidence by external and internal stakeholders should increase.
Goal 3.1 – Advance the quality and reputation of the academic program
Goal 3.3 – Prepare students for meaningful work and flourishing lives