Statement as distributed Friday by the University of Saint Francis:
Dec. 6, 2013 FORT WAYNE, Ind.—Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded the University of Saint Francis (USF) $1 million to begin a new bachelor-level risk management insurance degree and implement strategies that build the career readiness of its students. The five-year grant provides the upfront investment to launch what university administration officials report as long-term strategies that will pay dividends far into the future for the students and the community. USF is contributing in-kind services of approximately $500,000 to support these initiatives.
The new Risk Management Insurance (RMI) degree, targeted for Fall 2015, will be the first of its kind in northeast Indiana. “The new degree was endorsed by Ash Brokerage, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance, Hylant Group, Lincoln National Life Insurance and Medical Protective,” said Robert Lee, USF’s interim dean for the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership. “The insurance industry is expected to experience a high number of retirements in the next five years which is problematic for a growing industry. New insurance professionals are needed in northeast Indiana to replace those retirements,” added Lee. The business school dean confirmed that responding to employer needs was the overriding reason for developing the RMI program.
A portion of the grant will fund a revitalized Career Outreach Center that will expand relationships with employers to increase career placements and experiential learning opportunities including internships. “The university has over 80 percent of its students active with internships before they graduate. The new Career Outreach Center will help to expand that percentage and increase focus on career placements,” stated USF Alumni Director Jessica Swinford. The university’s Career Outreach Center has formed ties with other regional universities to efficiently coordinate career placement.
The grant also will support the full implementation of USF’s recently introduced Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts (META) program. Funds will support marketing, student recruitment and other promotional needs. The university developed META for its planned downtown campus and is among the first in the nation to offer project-based learning at the collegiate level, making USF and Fort Wayne a destination for students attracted to this concept. This academic track combines business and entrepreneurship to better prepare students for leadership positions or to start their own businesses. Conceptually, students in META could graduate with a degree and their ready-to-launch businesses. The performing arts aspect of the campus will serve as a hub, helping to attract the creative class who want to work, live and/or socialize downtown.
Prior grants from the Endowment already have helped students find meaningful employment in Indiana. The Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership began its flagship EPIC program with Endowment funding. EPIC stands for Entrepreneurial Program with Integrated Cooperatives. The program is in its 5th year and has successfully placed 100 percent of its first-year cohort graduates in high-performing positions in northeast Indiana prior to graduation. The perfect placement results are in large part due to the connections made with employers through the integrated cooperatives.
USF President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF said, “The Endowment’s support for Indiana higher education has truly made a difference in the quality of life in our communities. This grant gives us an opportunity to innovate, partner and continue the momentum already evidenced through the Talent Initiative and other regional leadership.”
The University of Saint Francis, founded in 1890 as a comprehensive university in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs through the School of Health Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, School of Professional Studies and School of Creative Arts. The university’s College of Adult Learning designs focused curriculum for working adults by offering online and accelerated programs, through its Virtual, Fort Wayne and Crown Point campuses. More than 2,400 students from a broad geographic region attend USF for its academic excellence.