Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thank you very much for joining me today in this very important conversation about advancing healthy economies through engaged scholarship.

Last week, I delivered my annual address to our local community’s yearly joint gathering of service clubs. I focused a lot on how the University of Iowa makes a major impact on the economy of our community, region, and state. I reminded our service groups that an economic impact study we commissioned a year or two ago revealed that the UI contributes $6 billion in direct and indirect spending to the state of Iowa. In our local county, we spend nearly $150 million dollars annually for goods and services with over 800 local vendors. Our wildly popular Hawkeye football games bring $100 million into the county annually. And our nearly 16,000 employees who live in our county receive a payroll totaling almost a billion dollars a year.

Those numbers are impressive and important, but we all know that advancing healthy communities and economies involves much more than having dollars flow in and out of our institution thanks to our mere existence. Public engagement in our academic institutions is obviously an issue of great interest and concern in recent years as we explore what our role is in the advancement of a strong and prosperous society. One of the most crucial ideas to come from this inquiry has been the idea of engagement as partnership. As institutions of higher education, we cannot be of service to society by merely existing, and we cannot decide by ourselves what service and outreach our communities need and what we will provide. Engagement must be a partnership where we join with our communities in inquiry regarding their needs and dreams. The new public engagement is collaborative and consultative, and it is a process by which we all—communities and educational institutions alike—learn, discover, innovate, and create together in order to advance community. In other words—engaged scholarship.

In today’s environment, no institution is an island. As our world globalizes, as technological transformations change the way we work and learn, and as our constituents diversify, we as institutions of higher education must respond to the changing needs of our students. That almost always involves partnerships, and among the most important partners of the University of Iowa is our state’s community colleges, themselves one of the increasingly important educational sectors in our nation’s economic development.

In the past three years or so, we have gone beyond the traditional transfer process—though we have worked hard to make that more seamless—and we have been working to provide community college students the opportunity to earn a University of Iowa four-year degree right in their hometowns. Many people, both younger and older, because of work and other life circumstances, cannot make the commitment to live in Iowa City to pursue a degree in a traditional four-year on-campus program. Fortunately, the technological and institutional variety available for education and professional development has never been more diverse and abundant. Our need—as educators and students—to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities for innovation in teaching and learning that lie before us is urgent, yet the promise they present for our future is exciting.

Just last month, we were very proud to sign our final community college agreement, and now Iowa students can earn a University of Iowa four-year degree through any community college in the state. These agreements have created collaborative on-site and distance-learning degree and certificate programs that allow students to get a full four-year degree from the UI or complete a UI certificate program right at home. These programs include associate’s-to-bachelor’s degree completion programs, RN-to-BSN completion programs for nurses, bachelor of applied and liberal studies degrees, and certificates in entrepreneurial management, nonprofit management, and public health.

One might call our community college partnerships entrepreneurial, which is certainly a concept pertinent to advancing healthy economies through engaged learning and scholarship But one of the most important ways that we at Iowa engage in entrepreneurial thinking is to take the term literally. The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center was founded in 1996 through a generous gift from philanthropists John and Mary Pappajohn of Des Moines, Iowa. JPEC is a unique partnership within the University of Iowa among the Henry B. Tippie College of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and University of Iowa health sciences.

Our undergraduate entrepreneurship program has been recognized as a National Model Program by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. We are also regularly rated as one of the top 25 entrepreneurship programs in the United States by Entrepreneur Magazine and The Princeton Review. In addition to our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in entrepreneurship, all undergraduate students at the UI have the opportunity to earn a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management as part of their undergraduate degree. We’ve also added innovative entrepreneurial certificate programs in technology and performing arts. Other opportunities for students include business plan and elevator pitch competitions, seminars and workshops, internships, and actual start-up business support in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory, seen here.

Tyler Finchum is a University of Iowa sophomore and one of our most recent Bedell Lab success stories. Tyler runs an online business that also serves not just Iowa but the world agricultural community. Farm Manuals Fast, which Tyler started as a junior at Muscatine High School in southeastern Iowa, sells manuals via the web in PDF format for various types of farm equipment. Tyler got the idea from always having to look for these manuals when his dad would ask him to track one down during their work on the family farm. Now based at Bedell Lab, Farm Manuals Fast just celebrated its second anniversary. In that time, Tyler has sold more than 5,000 manuals for farm implements to customers around the world. It’s so successful that when you Google “farm manuals,” the top two results are Farm Manuals Fast. Tyler says he earned $50,000 in 2011, and 2012 is shaping up to net him $75,000. This is clearly enough profit to pay his college expenses and still have some left over.

Tyler is not only providing this important service to farmers around the world—he’s had orders from twenty-two foreign countries so far—he has also started a charitable arm associated with the company, the Farm Manuals Fast Foundation. This effort provides free manuals to farmers in developing countries who can’t afford to buy one. So far, he says he’s given away manuals mostly to farmers in South America.

The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s reach extends well beyond our college students. One important function that directly engages with our state’s economic development is providing assistance to Iowa businesses. JPEC also provides counseling and information services to startups and small businesses in the areas of management, marketing, financial forecasting, and attracting capital. We also regularly offer educational programs on a variety of topics that include taxes, accounting systems, business planning, OSHA, franchising, and business plan development.

Our assistance to Iowa businesses also aligns with our education to students. Interdisciplinary student teams are formed to complete advanced business projects for aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage companies in Iowa. These projects typically include market assessments of new technology products or services, strategic planning, financial forecasting, and business planning.

JPEC’s reach extends to the entrepreneurs of our future, too, with programs for K-12 students. The Richard O. Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship within the Center provides curriculum resources to educators and face-to-face entrepreneurship training for middle school, high school, and community college teachers in Iowa. Elementary and middle school students can participate in entrepreneurship camps held each summer, and high school students can enter the Quick Pitch Biz Plan Competition or attend the Center’s “Be Your Own Boss” one-day entrepreneurship conference, which brings together students and educators for a day of networking, brainstorming, listening to speakers, and education.

Perhaps no area of endeavor today is more open to the entrepreneurial spirit while advancing healthy communities than sustainability. It is incumbent upon us as institutions of higher, the source of discovery and new knowledge, to advance our leadership in the critical environmental and social challenges of our time. Four years ago, I launched a sustainability initiative at Iowa, encouraging our university community to embrace sustainability as a central priority of all aspects of our university enterprise—our operations, our academic mission, and our responsibilities to the greater society.

One of the foundational education programs is our new Certificate in Sustainability, open to all UI students and focused on an understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interactions between them. Because sustainability embraces many disciplines, methodologies, and institutional practices, certificate students are required to take courses in four areas: changing environments and human health; energy, climate, and built environments; the power of culture and society; and ethics, economics, and public policy. They also must have experience with analyzing real-life problems in and outside of the classroom and with working collaboratively to solve such problems.

A more specifically focused program and one that makes a direct impact on Iowa’s economy is the new wind power management graduate program in our College of Engineering. The wind power industry will continue to grow, with many envisioning that as much as 20 percent of our national energy needs being met by wind-generated power. Iowa is an ideal location for such a wind energy training program as, according to the 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report, our state is one of the country’s largest and fastest growing wind markets, ranking second among all U.S. states in percentage of in-state electricity generation from wind power. Wind power management students are trained to design, effectively operate, and manage wind power farms, as well as their interactions with other alternative and conventional power generation systems.

While students will be able to work with wind energy development across our state, we are also bringing it to campus. Not long ago, we installed a small 2.4 kilowatt wind turbine on campus, which both generates sustainable power for the university and serves as a teaching tool for our students. In the end, our Wind Power Management Program aims to provide the expertise and talent necessary to help ensure Iowa’s future as a wind energy leader.
One of the most exciting and comprehensive sustainability programs at Iowa that combines education and research and engages directly with community development is the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities in our Urban and Regional Planning program. IISC’s purpose is to apply our student and faculty talent and knowledge to develop plans and initiatives that will enable Iowa’s small towns and cities to enhance their community sustainability. At the same time, University of Iowa faculty can use this opportunity to advance scholarship on sustainability in their various disciplines and fields.

The first city that our Urban and Regional Planning students and faculty are working with in this initiative is Dubuque. We are cooperating with that city’s own Sustainable Dubuque Initiative, and we are currently in the second year of the two-year project. Dubuque’s holistic approach to sustainability—which includes environmental and ecological integrity, economic prosperity, and social and cultural vibrancy—is a tremendous model for our students to learn from. And working with Dubuque’s professional planners and community foundation is helping our students see, hands-on, how planning is integrated within a city.

Reports were issued for each of the first year’s projects, which can give you an idea of the breadth and scope of the many areas in which we are collaborating with Iowa’s oldest city. The completed projects are Indicators and Indicator Measurements for the 11 Sustainability Principles; Renewable Energy Asset Mapping—this in anticipation of the closing of Alliant Energy’s Dubuque power plant; A Portrait of Poverty in Dubuque; Local Foods and Local Institutions; Local Foods Dubuque, The Action Plan (these two local foods projects involved collaborations with four colleges and other major institutions in the area, linking them with local food producers); and The Design of Green and Healthy Homes Program.
The current year’s projects, now under way, are Dubuque County Smarter Planning Indicators, a regional sustainability plan; Accelerating Sustainable Transportation Planning through the Use of “Smart” Data; Determination of Real Housing Need with Special Attention to Residential as well as Commercial Development in the Washington Neighborhood—this project is related to the Dubuque region’s growth and its changing demographics and economics of the future, with special emphasis on affordable market-rate housing options for new workers; Successful Neighborhood School Strategies—this project will identify a comprehensive strategy to strengthen and build culturally vibrant neighborhoods in the face of changing demographics and declining enrollments in Dubuque’s central city schools; and Survey of Best Practices for General Plans for Redevelopment of Port Areas, which will focus on looking at best practices and uses in continuing to reshape the city’s riverfront. This will be done by examining redevelopment processes and outcomes at other ports on the Upper Mississippi as well as examining the best opportunities for Dubuque.

For me, the Dubuque Initiative exemplifies how we should think about engagement for healthy communities—holistically. The projects examine Dubuque as a whole—its housing, its food, its energy, its schools, its neighborhoods, its transportation, its environmental stewardship, its economic development, and more. In so doing, students are learning, research is being conducted, and direct service is being provided—the model of the learning, discovery, and engagement paradigm.

The University of Iowa has many more programs and initiatives that are advancing healthy communities, from health care to the arts to flood control to literacy to much more. I know that your institutions are doing much to make your communities stronger and healthier as well, so now I’d like to open up our session to discuss how we are all doing so, and how we can do so even more effectively as we move forward.