$1M grant supports Professional Edge Center
Lilly Endowment funding will accelerate new effort to link students
and alumni with career opportunities in Indiana’s growth industries
A $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will boost the University of Indianapolis’ efforts to create stronger career and business opportunities for students and alumni through its new Professional Edge Center.
UIndy launched the center this fall by merging career services, alumni relations and community service functions into a coordinated effort to stoke entrepreneurship and connect liberal arts majors with mentors and career paths in leading Indiana industries. The Professional Edge Center staff works with academic departments and alumni to develop tailored curriculum and provide students with practical experiences, professional certifications and ongoing business connections in their respective fields.
“The center’s activities are underway, and the Endowment’s grant will greatly accelerate our efforts to help students make a seamless transition from college to career,” university President Robert Manuel said. “We especially want students majoring in the liberal arts to see the many career options open to them. The skills they are developing – leadership, communication, critical thinking and problem-solving – are exactly the ones employers say they need.”
The Endowment provided funding as part of its Initiative to Promote Opportunities Through Educational Collaborations, which for more than a decade has supported efforts by Indiana colleges and universities to improve the job prospects of college graduates in the state.
Central to the Professional Edge Center’s activities is the formation of eight teams of educators and business professionals, one to support entrepreneurism and seven others representing business sectors that are academic strengths for UIndy and vital elements of the Indiana economy: health care, financial services, manufacturing and logistics, communications, public service, nonprofit management and the arts.
Each team will include a lead faculty member, several alumni working in the selected field and other industry contacts who will provide mentoring, networking and career experiences for students, helping them to develop communication and social skills as well as industry-specific abilities. The teams will provide feedback on industry trends, student preparedness and curriculum relevance.
UIndy Associate Vice President Corey Wilson, recently named to lead the new center, said graduates of the University of Indianapolis not only can benefit from the center’s services but also will be crucial to its success.
“We have more than 20,000 alumni in Indiana, many of them playing key roles in the industries we’re targeting,” Wilson said. “They have so much experience and expertise to share with our students and young alums, and they are embracing this opportunity.”
On the entrepreneurism track, the Professional Edge Center is collaborating with the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and its Business Ownership Initiative to create a microlending fund for students, alumni, faculty and community members who have promising startup proposals. The university will provide office space for business incubation and assistance in seeking investors.
The center’s other programs and services include internship and job fairs, résumé and interview coaching, career exploration and service opportunities in students’ fields of interest, and an ongoing series of “Real Life 101” panel discussions in which successful alumni and other local professionals speak and answer questions on career-related issues. More information on the center is available at www.uindy.edu/professional-edge.