Students advise Citizens Energy on steam plant efficiencies

Seven University of Indianapolis students partnered with Citizens Energy this semester to gain real-world work experience through the Partnership for Excellence in Research and Learning (PERL) initiative.

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The PERL project creates mutually beneficial connections in Indiana communities. Students gain professional development opportunities in a collaborative environment, while businesses receive fresh insight into industry challenges. The project helps foster critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, both key areas of focus to a University of Indianapolis education.

Kirk Bryans, assistant director of business, entrepreneurship, sports management and marketing, Professional Edge Center, said programs like PERL are important to the University on a couple different levels: Students get exposure to working with professionals in the community trying to solve real world problems and find ways of doing things better. Working within a cross functional team provides students real life team building scenarios which normally doesn’t happen until you are in the midst of your first job.  

Our employer partners are experiencing the power of a University of Indianapolis education,” Bryans said. “They recognize how incredible our students really are. Each interaction is a win-win as both parties exchange information.”

The University group includes students pursuing diverse areas of study: Carsen Alber (environmental sustainability/criminal justice), Liz Behrends (information systems), Grace Buck (human biology), Casey Brock (supply chain management), Xavier Ortiz (chemistry), Kyler Nichols (accounting) and Holly Cox (chemistry/biology).

The students were tasked with identifying ways to improve efficiencies at the Perry K Steam Plant in downtown Indianapolis. The goal was to find environmentally friendly solutions that also would minimize consumer costs moving forward.

The students toured the steam plant several times, analyzed data from Citizens Energy, met with employees from the steam plant and broke into smaller task groups to achieve their goals, spending about 45 hours on the project from September to November.

In December 2017, they presented findings and recommendations to about a dozen industry experts.

Highlights included streamlining a spreadsheet used for reporting water consumption at the plant, reducing time spent on the task from two hours to about two minutes. They also evaluated methods used in the water treatment process, investigated hydro-electric generation in plant systems to offset purchased power and identified technologies to measure the inlet flow into the plant water system.

“We were thrilled to have the UIndy students engaged with our steam business,” Ann McIver, director of environmental stewardship, said. “Their independent views of our plant water system allowed them to “Challenge the Process,” one of our core leadership practices. Their recommendations may allow us to offset our cost of electricity, and their advanced spreadsheet knowledge will bring time savings to steam personnel on a routine basis.”

The experience also provided valuable insight into how a cross-functional team operates and allowed the University students to directly impact their community.

“It’s not everyday that we get to work with people from different majors to help an organization so prevalent in central Indiana,” Nichols said. “This project really taught me how to work with people that think differently than I do and how to balance my time between classes and my other obligations.”

Levi Mielke, assistant chemistry professor, supported the PERL initiative with Bryans by generating the scope and description of the project, interviewing and selecting candidates and acting as liaisons between the University and Citizens Energy.

“We successfully brought together an interdisciplinary team of students to tackle a project bigger than themselves,” Mielke said. “We have the best students at UIndy. Not only have they become content experts, but can apply their knowledge and adapt to new learning situations while providing a valuable community service.”

Watch this short video to learn more about the Professional Edge Center.

Proposed Tax Plan Could Hurt Indiana Students

The proposed changes to our tax codes being considered by the U.S. Congress will negatively impact our regional economic competitiveness by limiting the ability for Hoosiers to earn a college degree. As for our tax code, clearly it is time to think about better ways to manage how and why we tax. But, in the case of the current tax changes under consideration, the sweeping impact to higher education will have a devastating effect to our communities in the long term.

Higher education serves as as catalyst for positive change in workforce development, economic revitalization and bolstering our quality of life. The more people earning a college degree or credential, the more competitive our region becomes in attracting businesses, creating new ones, filling workforce needs, and supporting an informed citizenry.

At a time when our country should be making higher education more accessible and affordable, these changes threaten many benefits that fundamentally impact the ability of students to attend college. The proposal, up for a vote by the U.S. Senate as early as Friday, will cost institutions, parents, and students an additional $65 billion over the next 10 years, according to the American Council on Education.

The impact of the proposed changes on higher education will make it more costly for universities to access debt to improve learning facilities, provide funding opportunities for students and create environments of innovation. More than 12 million people benefit from student loan interest deductions each year, which the proposed legislation would eliminate. This is money that not only helps students and families pay for college but also allows for more investment to support a strong economy. Students who receive tuition waivers now face the prospect of those funds being considered as taxable income. The proposal also would tax endowments at institutions across the country that support student success. In addition, tuition reimbursement programs–a valuable tool for attracting talent and helping university employees afford college for themselves and their children–also soon could be considered taxable income.

The proposed changes ultimately will have the effect of adding to the growing $1.4 trillion in student debt that continues to weigh heavily on college graduates today. They also will have a chilling effect on enrollments, which will create a long-term decline in our state’s talent base for the future.

The University of Indianapolis has a proud tradition of welcoming first-generation college students (about 40 percent of total enrollment each year). More than 86 percent of our alumni choose to live in Indiana, and our University offers more than $48 million dollars of its own money to help talented students earn a college degree. All of the other institutions of higher education in our state provide similar benefits to the region.

The proposal before Congress also will have consequences for our regional economic development well into the future. Indiana has a long-standing commitment to bolstering the intellectual capital in our state. We are recognized as a state that incubates technological innovations, attracts new business, and provides one of the most enviable standards of living in the country. These proposed changes will increase the chances that we will lose our economic momentum and slow the advances we have made in preparing a 21st Century workforce. These are the core engines of success in Indiana, and any future changes to the tax code should be mindful of the important role higher education plays in safeguarding them.

 

Robert L. Manuel
University of Indianapolis President

 

Contact
David Hosick
Director of Communication
317-410-5992