Georgia Southern University's Business Innovation Group (BIG) in downtown Statesboro.
Georgia Southern University's Business Innovation Group (BIG) in downtown Statesboro

In recognition of its strong commitment to economic engagement, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) has designated Georgia Southern University as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) University.

The national designation acknowledges public research universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities. These activities include innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.

“As the national leader in championing the substantial role that public universities play in regional economic development, the APLU’s recognition represents a crowning achievement not only for the team at Georgia Southern but for our committed partners in private industry and the communities we serve,” said Georgia Southern University Vice Provost for Research Chris Curtis, Ph.D.

“These cherished relationships stand at the crux of Georgia Southern’s Public Impact mission in research and innovation. We look forward to our future contributions to the region’s economic prosperity through technological and entrepreneurial innovation as an IEP-designated university.”

“Economic development is a major pillar of universities’ work,” said APLU President Mark Becker. “From talent development to path-breaking research to entrepreneurship and beyond, institutions have a central role to play in economic development. We’re pleased to recognize Georgia Southern for its commitment to engaging its community around these issues to advance regional economic development.”

Georgia Southern received the designation after an independent panel reviewed the school’s application. This included an internal review and analysis of its economic engagement activities that were conducted with outside stakeholder input.

APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement (CECE) manages the designation process. CECE is a national leader in efforts to help public research universities plan, assess and communicate their work in regional, national and global economic development and community engagement.

The CECE “Economic Engagement Framework” includes tools for university self-assessment, metrics determination and economic impact analysis.

As part of the self-study conducted with external stakeholders that was central to the designation application process, the University identified three areas of institutional strength in economic engagement and described programs in these areas. Officials also identified areas for growth and improvement for the University’s economic engagement enterprise, and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners.

The Business Innovation Group (BIG), located in downtown Statesboro, is the business outreach arm for Georgia Southern.

BIG provides resources for students and entrepreneurs to gain necessary skills and training necessary to understand business principles, experience how businesses operate, and successfully launch new enterprises. BIG has a center in Metter and one in development in Hinesville. Over the past decade, BIG has assisted more than 3,000 entrepreneurs in creating 380 new businesses in local communities.

The center just received news they are one of 51 nationwide grant recipients to receive $600,000 in grant funding. Additionally, it also received $600,000 in local match funds. The goal is to accelerate technology entrepreneurship by increasing inclusive access to entrepreneurial support and startup capital.

Such accomplishments is why Georgia Southern is now one of 80 higher education institutions designated as an IEP university.

Institutions that have received the IEP designation have reported significant advancement of their efforts. This is due to the stakeholder engagement and self-study efforts undertaken in conjunction with the program.

Institutions are leveraging their status as IEP universities to identify new areas of opportunity in aligning with economic development objectives. Those schools are developing deeper engagement with others in their regional innovation ecosystems. As well, they are making changes within the institution to expand their impact.

“Earning the IEP Designation is not only about recognizing Georgia Southern’s efforts in cultivating talent, driving innovation and fostering a sense of place in the communities we serve,” said Dominique Halaby, Georgia Southern’s associate provost for innovation and commercialization and founding director of BIG. “It’s also about strengthening our long-term strategy to maximize our region’s economic potential.”

A panel of reviewers representing other universities and regional and national partners evaluate the applications for the designation. Scoring is based on a range of criteria emphasizing universities’ development of their economic engagement enterprise, their planning efforts around economic engagement, strategic communications around these efforts, and participation in encouraging economic engagement among peer institutions.

About APLU

APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. With a membership of 250 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 5 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $49.5 billion in university-based research.

About Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University is a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906. It offers approximately 140 different degree programs serving nearly 26,000 students through 10 colleges. These colleges are offered on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.