Thursday, December 4, 2014
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Clasen Board Room, 1329 JCP

Iowa Business Council

State economic development has become an increasingly important priority for our public universities all across the country, and that is certainly true in Iowa. We at the University Iowa are embracing that emphasis and moving full steam ahead by re-energizing older and creating new programs, as well as continuing to pursue the priorities that we have always held with excellence as our goal.

Among our highest priorities at the UI are student success and making life better for Iowans. Those two priorities are closely related. The most powerful way for us at the university to make life better in Iowa communities, including to help foster a strong economy and business climate, is to educate students well for productive professional and civic lives that raise the quality of life for all.

The presence and availability of high-achieving, effective professionals and community leaders are essential to creating communities that provide an environment for growth of Iowa companies, and that also attract talented people who want to move there with their families. To help create those livable, desirable communities, our first and foremost priority is the education of our students. And the University of Iowa delivers on that count. Let me share with you just a few numbers.  We are very proud that across the state, 50% of Iowa physicians are UI-educated, 80% of all Iowa dentists have been trained at Iowa, 47% of all pharmacists in the state are UI-trained and are represented in 96 of the state’s 99 counties, and 80% of Iowa’s K-12 school districts have UI-educated teachers and administrators. In specific numbers, an amazing 12,421 UI College of Education alumni are working in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. In addition to these professionals, Iowa-trained engineers, lawyers, nurses, businesspeople, public health professionals, artists, and many more are contributing economic development, services, care, and creativity to communities from the Missouri to the Mississippi.

I would like to make special mention of our growing student entrepreneurship programs at Iowa. We have been developing our entrepreneurship programs very aggressively in recent years, and we are proud that Entrepreneur magazine has designated the University Iowa among the top 25 entrepreneurship programs in the country. Economic development and student engagement meet in our several entrepreneurship certificates (including technology and the performing arts), the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, and the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory, all headquartered in the Tippie College of Business.

JPEC offers a wealth of programs for our students, including business plan and elevator pitch competitions, seminars and workshops, and actual start-up business support in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory. JPEC, by the way, also offers similar programs and consultation to businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Iowa. And I’m proud that dozens of successful businesses have spun out of the Bedell Lab, including those that offer design services for communities and charities, a mobile app to encourage recycling, genetics and genomics research software, a social media site called that provides a virtual meeting space for students taking the same college courses, and much more.

Of course, the Tippie College of Business hosts many other programs that provide business leaders for our state.  Let me share just one other example: the Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance. Risk management and insurance is a vital, essential, dynamic, and growing segment of our state’s economy as well as the nation’s. The keystone of the Vaughan Institute is the Risk Management and Insurance Certificate, but students in the program gain much more training and guidance through special programs, mentors, and industry connections. The Vaughan Institute is doing much to build on Iowa’s legacy of risk management and insurance and to provide critical support to one of the state’s most important industries. 

The excellence of the education we provide at the University Iowa factors into the value of the degrees that our students receive from us, and it’s one of the reasons why 90% of our graduating class in 2013 was either employed or in graduate school within seven months after graduation. And an Iowa education produces a special kind of employee. With over 4,100 businesses hiring our graduates in recent years, it is not hard to run into a fellow Hawkeye no matter where you work. As I travel across the state and talk with community leaders and business owners, I consistently hear that University of Iowa graduates are not just highly trained professionals but also hard workers and caring community members.

Of course, our research enterprise is critical to Iowa’s economic health and growth as well. Two years ago, I hired a new vice president for research and soon added “economic development” to his title. Dan Reed came to us with broad experience in both academics and industry, including the University of Illinois, the University of North Carolina, and Microsoft. Along with our economic development team in his office, Vice President Reed has affirmed the university’s commitment to, as he himself has said, “a new, more robust partnership with the citizens of Iowa, state and local organizations, and our sister universities, bringing all of our assets to bear on the challenges ahead in this rapidly changing, globalized world.” Dan has envisioned what he calls a new compact with our state to work in partnership in order to accelerate business and cultivate Iowa’s workforce. The prongs of this compact include turning research ideas into innovative technologies for companies, creating startups and jobs, solving business problems, and providing business and IT training not only on campus but in communities across the state.

The newest member of our economic development team, Assistant Vice President for Economic Development David Conrad, has been tasked with directing the university’s engagement activities throughout the state, including support for workforce training and expanding our partnerships with Iowa’s business and economic development agencies. I can’t go into all the details or pieces of our ambitious economic development plans, but let me highlight just a couple of initiatives.

Our UI Partners initiative focuses on direct business assistance. We created UI Partners specifically to help small Iowa companies innovate and grow.  We want to work directly with businesses to solve their information technology (IT) challenges, using practical insights and ideas drawn from university faculty, staff, and students. We also will provide free IT needs assessments for businesses, whether it be about creating websites, managing databases, e-commerce, or general tech support, as well as general business planning. And we bring leading-edge informatics expertise and business training to organizations, startups, and established businesses, too.

The University of Iowa is also eager to help create new startups and jobs in addition to providing support to existing businesses.  This is the purpose of the UI Ventures initiative. This project works somewhat in the opposite direction of UI Partners in that we are working to bring funding, venture capital, mentors, executives, and entrepreneurs to the university in order to assist our faculty members, postdocs, and students in accelerating their own startups and entrepreneurial projects.

These are just a few highlights of how the University of Iowa is developing vibrant, livable communities with strong local economies. And I have not even had time to mention the tremendous cultural impact we have on Iowa communities through our arts outreach programs, or the incredible work of the new Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, which addresses the economic, environmental, and socio-cultural issues communities face by matching community needs with the expertise and resources of University of Iowa faculty and students.

We at the University of Iowa are deeply committed not only to the success of our students while they are at the university and after they graduate, but also to helping ensure growth and prosperity in our state’s communities. Thanks to the excellence of our Hawkeye graduates and our economic development programs, we’re deeply committed to making life better for all Iowans, and we’re always seeking new and better ways to do so.