By Randy Rendfeld
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — The opportunity for Anderson University graduates to find meaningful employment will get a boost from a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the university announced Thursday.
The Endowment's Initiative to Promote Opportunities Through Educational Collaborations awarded $62.7 million in grants to Indiana’s 39 accredited colleges and universities through this initiative.
“This grant enables Anderson University to support many activities that will lead our graduates to Indiana careers,” said Dr. James L. Edwards, president of Anderson University.
For more than a decade, the Endowment has awarded grants to Indiana colleges and universities to pursue activities that improve the job prospects of college graduates in the state. While progress has been made, particularly through expanded internship opportunities and more robust career placement offices, Indiana college graduates continue to have difficulty finding jobs within the state that are suitable to individuals holding a bachelor’s degree.
Anderson University’s program, entitled IDEA-U (Integration and Development of Entrepreneurship with Academics), will build collaborative partnerships and innovative entrepreneurial projects to impact communities in central Indiana, officials said.
“With this generous funding from the Endowment we will be able to bring together our commitments to academic and Christian discovery for a purpose; create a campuswide culture of collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship; and enhance partnerships within our community and with higher education colleagues,” said Dr. Marie Morris, provost for Anderson University.
Morris used the example of Ben Orcutt, who created Buckskin Bikes, as an example of what might arise.
"There might be students who come up with their own projects that they want to work on," Morris said. "Then we've built into the grant an opportunity for some microloans. So if an undergraduate student has an idea for a new small business start-up, they might apply for a microloan to get started. Because we want to not only prepare our students better for the workforce, but there are some students who have very creative ideas. We want to equip them so they can create jobs here in Indiana."
Morris said the engineering program that began this fall at AU might be able to work collaboratively on projects in Madison County.
One of the aspects of the grant is to improve professional readiness of AU students, she said. "So it will be building into the curriculum things like resume building, interviewing and finance," Morris said, "and do more with internships and experiential learning."
Collaborative partners that will work with Anderson University to achieve the program goals include the Flagship Enterprise Center, the Levinson Center and Indiana Campus Compact. Faculty, staff, students and community partners will be engaged to contribute to innovative and entrepreneurial projects to show AU graduates the potential for lifelong learning and work in Indiana, the university said.