University Economic Development Association

UEDA Awards Best Practices in Economic Engagement from Higher Ed Institutions

Contact: Tim Hindes



Categories span realms of talent, innovation, and place

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – October 5, 2020 – Last week, the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) announced winners of its annual Awards of Excellence program during their Virtual Summit hosted from its headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Leading initiatives from across North America competed in a six-month process, including application, peer review, online presentations, and, ultimately, selection by attendees of the UEDA Annual Summit as category leaders. The Awards of Excellence Program recognizes organizations who are transforming their campuses into engines of economic prosperity through leading edge initiatives in six categories: 1) Innovation; 2) Talent; 3) Place; 4) Talent + Place; 5) Place + Innovation; and 6) Innovation + Talent. “Never before has economic engagement of higher education institutions been more critical to our economic redesign,” said Tim Hindes, UEDA Executive Director. “UEDA’s model of highlighting best practices in economic engagement continues to locate, highlight, and recognize those initiatives that best exemplify sustainable models that are making remarkable, positive impacts on regional economic ecosystems across North America.” Throughout the Awards of Excellence process, nominations are judged on the sustainability, replicability, originality, and impact of their programs or initiatives. Those receiving the top marks in these criteria advance through the process, culminating in recognition as the category leader by peers in attendance at the annual UEDA Summit. This year, UEDA recognized initiatives in five of the six categories. The 2020 Awards of Excellence category winners are:


Innovation Category
Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Submitted by Jackson State University

The Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development was developed to help foster innovation and entrepreneurship at Jackson State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Jackson, Mississippi. The Center is unique as it serves multiple purposes: imbue a culture of innovation among faculty, staff and students; change the entrepreneurial mindset of Underrepresented Minorities; provide a space with resources to help infuse technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the student learning and faculty delivery of courses; and foster collaboration between industry and university.


Talent Category
Business Opportunities for Self-Starters (BOSS) Submitted by Indiana University East

How do you get young high school students to want to study business and economics? Have them become a BOSS.

The BOSS program is a 54-hour curriculum developed to teach high school students how to create a business plan. As students create their individual plans, they are inspired and encouraged to research a variety of areas of business such as possible locations, pricing of advertising and promotion, management and personnel, manufacturing and many other important resources. Students are introduced to community leaders and practice elevator speeches to promote their idea in a “Shark Tank” type of presentation to a group of judges.


Talent + Place Category
CSUN Pathways to Success Program Submitted by California State University Northridge and Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science

The CSUN Pathways supports undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups to prepare them for food and agriculture careers by implementing a structured student outreach program and providing integrated multiple student support services; The program is a collaborative effort between the CSUN’s Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, Los Angeles Mission Community College (LAMC), Local High Schools and several USDA agencies, including the California Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program. Pathways to Success is an undergraduate and graduate Fellowship program which has provided scholarships, proactive advisement and tutoring support, paid research assistantships, and peer and faculty mentoring, a variety of professional development and training opportunities including comprehensive lactation education training, career mentorship, leadership and professional skills workshops, and hands-on learning experiences.


Place Category
Southeast Kentucky Downtown Revitalization Project Submitted by University of Kentucky

The Southeast Kentucky Downtown Revitalization Project is a strategic partnership to revitalize Eastern Kentucky’s downtowns, support entrepreneurial ecosystems and begin readying their communities for new investment. Stakeholder teams representing each community have access to CEDIK’s suite of services and technical assistance to support the creation of downtown revitalization plans oriented towards supporting entrepreneurs, building the capacity of local leaders, and attracting new private investments. The goal of the project is to build capacity in the downtown areas to attract private investment for revitalization projects that present a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities.


Place + Innovation Category
The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky Submitted by The University of Kentucky

Born out of a trailblazing dining contract, The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky (UKFC) is a first-of-its-kind local food systems institute that bridges the public and private dimensions of UK’s dining partnership. UKFC works with our dining partner to create initiatives that extend the positive economic impact of our dining contract beyond the boundaries of our campus, bringing the heart of the Land Grant mission to campus operations. A combined approach of clear goals and metrics, targeted research and programing, a focus on replicable local food models, and an innovative suite of strategic partnerships has made UKFC a national model for successful farm to campus initiatives. UKFC grounds our work in a deep engagement with Kentucky’s local food community while also integrating the specific perspective and opportunities afforded by institutional dining. By aiming for a specific goal and rallying our partners towards achieving it, UKFC has affected lasting change in Kentucky’s local food economy.


Judges’ Award Winner
(awarded at the Judging Committee’s discretion)
Market Research Center Submitted by Seton Hall University

The Market Research Center at Seton Hall University is an innovative program that pairs student teams with organizations to address real-world business challenges. Projects take the form of semester-long market research initiatives. Student teams work with businesses, organizations, and non-profits who need help with specific challenges. Students collaborate with their business partners to identify a specific business issue. They align on a plan to collect/analyze data and then conduct both qualitative and quantitative market research. Students get hands-on experience with a real-world challenge and client. Businesses receive valuable insights and actionable recommendations.


How the Awards Process Works University project teams applied for the UEDA Awards of Excellence Program. Projects were reviewed and scored by an executive award committee and three or four project finalists were selected for each category. Project finalists presented their projects online for participants of the UEDA Virtual Summit, where the audience of peers voted for projects that best exemplified the criteria for their category. Throughout the process, projects were judged on scalability, sustainability, impact originality, and the ability to be replicated. Awards were presented during UEDA’s Rally Day celebration that was held on September 30, 2020.
The 2020 Virtual Summit was generously sponsored by Elsevier, Lemelson Foundation, TrailBlaze Creative, Invent Penn State, Jim Woodell & Company, Kansas State University, Georgia Southern University, Virginia Tech, EDO Marketplace, Bowling Green State University, The University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services, California State University Northridge, East Stroudsburg University and Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute.


The 2021 UEDA Summit will be held in Savannah, Georgia in October 2021. Nominations for the 2021 Awards of Excellence program will begin in the spring of 2021 and are open to all competitive initiatives. Watch for more information at


At the UEDA Summit, the attendees also elected and announced new officers and board members at-large. Appointments to the UEDA executive committee include:

•  John Provo from Virginia Tech, President
•  Rebecca Robinson from Kansas State University, President-elect
•  Jim Woodell from Jim Woodell & Company, Vice President
•  Genna Hurd from The University of Kansas, Treasurer
•  Russell Mills from Bowling Green State University, Secretary
•  Julia Potter from California State University Northridge, Past President


Newly elected UEDA at-large Board members include:

•  Margo Fliss from the University of Alaska
•  Dominique Halaby from Georgia Southern University
•  Matt Hebb from Dalhousie University
•  Eddie Pauline from the Ohio State University
•  Lenore VanderZee from the State University of New York at Canton


About UEDA Established in 1976, UEDA is North America’s membership organization that brings together public and private higher education; private sector; public agencies; and community economic development stakeholders in economic development. UEDA’s members work to expand economic opportunity and prosperity in our communities and regions by leveraging education / talent development; research and technology development; and community-building and place-making strategies. UEDA’s mission is to serve its members by advancing knowledge and practice in economic engagement by institutions of higher education.