University partnerships diverse, wide-reaching

While students attend class, study and work, university officials are building links, or partnerships, with businesses and other organizations that they hope will enhance educational opportunities here.

Some partnerships that NKU is involved in are more visible than others. Pepsi machines can be found in many buildings on campus, while TANK’s “River Run” transports riders back and forth to various attractions in Northern Kentucky.

Other partnerships, though, are not easily recognizable.

Part of a grant from Ashland to NKU, for instance, will be used to buy equipment for the new science building, said Phil Schmidt, director of the Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics (CINSAM). An endowment using money from that same grant will establish educational programs for local high school and elementary school students.

A partnership with Mazak, through the technology department, allows NKU students to attend classes at the company’s facilities where students learn to use equipment not available on Northern’s campus.

“There are dozens and dozens of partnerships between NKU departments and offices and local business or civic organizations,” says Chris Cole, interim director of media relations and communications. These partnerships range from involvement with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to Fidelity Investments to the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati.

“Partnerships are initiated in a variety of ways, normally by an NKU administrator,” Cole said. “Each partnership then takes on a life of its own.”

In the case of Mazak, the technology department was looking for a way to expand its facilities on campus to include more up-to-date equipment. They asked for a donation from Mazak, who, in turn, opened their facilities for classes.

“[The partnership has] been a real winner for us,” said Charles Pinder, chairman of the technology department.

As more and more partnerships develop between NKU and local organizations and businesses, the University has developed programs that promote public engagement.

In “Defining Our Future: Northern Kentucky University’s Five-Year Strategic Agenda,” public engagement is listed as a core value of the University.

“We are committed to treating the metropolitan region as an extension of our campus. We will build partnerships throughout the region that both serve the learning needs of the public and enhance the learning opportunities available to our faculty, staff and students,” the agenda says.

Metropolitan Education and Training Service (METS), for example, is a public service extension of NKU, which provides access to resources for organizations. Robert Snyder, executive director of the program, says METS maintains a database that is used to connect organizations with resources that have the potential to help them.

Cincinnati Milacron, Mazak, the Cincinnati Bar Association and Drees Homes have used METS’ services.

Another way NKU is trying to promote public engagement is through the Center for Civic Engagement. According to Carole Beere, Associate Provost for Graduate Studies and Outreach, the center will house three initiatives; University-Community programs, the Mayerson Philanthropy Project and NKU Link.

In February, Beere sent out requests for proposals to all tenured and tenure track faculty. The request called for “proposals for university-community partnerships that will engage faculty, and possibly students, in response to the community’s most pressing social, economic, educational, health and civic needs.”

“What we’re looking to do is form partnerships that are mutually beneficial,” Beere said. The Mayerson Philanthropy Project is a partnership between NKU and the Mayerson Foundation, which provides students with money to allocate to non-profit organizations. Students have participated in this program in the past through such classes as applied anthropology and social research. The Women’s Crisis Center and Crayons to Computers have received money from this partnership. While not fully developed, NKU Link is a proposed single point of contact for any organization or person seeking services.

“We want to be responsive to business needs,” Beere said.

For example, NKU Link could be used to find resources that supply help to small businesses. Beere said that by supplying a single point of contact, the process of approaching the university will be less intimidating.

“Universities are complex organizations,” she said.