Meet the IU CREED member: Melissa Fairbanks of IUPUC

June 25, 2018
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The Indiana University Council for Regional Engagement and Economic Development, or CREED, addresses regional economic concerns and identifies ways that IU can use its resources to advance economic development efforts in the state. Each IU campus has a CREED representative, appointed by the campus’s vice chancellor, chancellor or provost.

Crimson Catalyst: Why is community engagement important to IUPUC?Melissa Fairbanks has represented IUPUC on CREED since 2017. She is the director of the Center for Business and Economic Development. She was kind enough to answer questions for Crimson Catalyst.

Melissa Fairbanks: Community engagement builds stronger connections with local employers and community organizations, which supports student placement for internships, as well as, permanent employment for graduates. It provides professional development and performance opportunities for faculty and staff while positioning IUPUC as a regional thought leader. It fosters a welcoming campus environment and deepens relationships for long-term philanthropic endeavors.

CC: Why is regional economic development important to IUPUC?

MF: Aligning academic programming initiatives with regional economic development opportunities influences program development in critical regional areas such as education, healthcare, safety, security, management, information systems, engineering and technology. Economic development activities increase the capacity for innovation and discovery. IUPUC can increase support and enhance the growth of the regional talent pipeline, particularly in the areas of diversifying the pipeline and supporting the global workforce in our area.

CC: What vision or priorities does your chancellor have regarding regional engagement and economic development?

MF: Two initiatives of the IUPUC Strategic Plan currently under development focus on the broad area of “Economic Development and Economic Opportunity”:

  1. Align academic programming initiatives with regional economic development and economic opportunity priorities.
    1. Secure appropriate accreditation that demonstrates the quality and strength of our programs.
    2. Develop programs to address critical regional needs in education, healthcare, safety, security, management, information systems, engineering and technology.
    3. Strengthen current relationships and collaboration with regional guiding groups, local governments, the EcO Network, economic development boards, chambers of commerce, community foundations, significant employers and regional planning initiatives.
    4. Build capacity to support and enhance the growth of the regional talent pipeline, particularly in the areas of diversifying the pipeline, creating welcoming communities and supporting the global workforce in our region.
  2. Increase capacity for innovation and discovery.
    1. Enhance support for scholarly activity.
    2. Enhance capacity for grant-funded research and scholarship.
    3. Enhance support for faculty/student research.

“Economic Development and Economic Opportunity” are broad areas of focus in IUPUC’s current strategic plan.

CC: How has the region benefited from IUPUC’s involvement and leadership?

MF: Since 2010, our regional employers have been clear and specific about their needs for prepared employees. We have added programs such as our Bachelor of Science degrees in mechanical engineering, nursing, health services administration, communications, and criminal justice and our Master of Science degrees in nursing with a family nurse practitioner emphasis and mental health counseling. IUPUC also reshaped its master’s in business management program to better fit the needs of students already employed in our region. These additions to our academic programs provide a reliable stream of well-prepared employees for regional industry.

IUPUC is also responsive to environmental issues in our region where IUPUC’s resources add value. A recent example is IUPUC’s collaboration with the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County (ASAP) initiative, which addresses our opioid abuse epidemic. This collaboration connects IUPUC faculty and staff resources with ASAP to focus on prevention efforts in the 18-to-25-year-old age group.

IUPUC has collaborated in a variety of ways with the City of Columbus’ Welcoming Community Strategy. IUPUC facilitated work in this area by making Welcoming Campus a high-level strategic goal. From there, many IUPUC faculty and staff have engaged in a variety of projects aligned with the Columbus goals.

IUPUC has worked closely with regional advocates and the regional K-12 school systems to facilitate the enrollment of Latino students, documented and undocumented, at IUPUC. The rate of Latino student graduation from regional high schools is increasing. IUPUC has found ways to make these students feel welcome on campus and to meet their academic, social and financial needs. In Columbus, which has a particularly large global immigrant community due to the needs of local industry, IUPUC has collaborated with regional interests on a variety of curricular and co-curricular programs.

CC: What potential opportunities exist for IUPUC and the region?

MF: Our region has a lower-than-average rate of postsecondary education completion. To attract and retain employers in the region, IUPUC can play a valuable role in helping to increase regional higher education completion rates by making value-added program decisions. For example, regional employment is strong in advanced manufacturing and healthcare.

IUPUC’s hometown of Columbus has a strong professional foundation in STEM-based occupations. In addition to having a very high per capita ratio of mechanical engineers, Columbus has a world-renowned collection of architecture and design. IU has located its first Master of Architecture program in Columbus. IUPUC has the opportunity to help leverage value from these factors for Columbus and the region.

Creative approaches to philanthropy have been used for decades in Columbus, and IUPUC has begun collaborating with local philanthropy to leverage IUPUC’s position as a thought leader in the region.

To view the original blog on the Indiana University website, go to .

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