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TCNJ innovation and business partnership efforts to get boost through new NSF grant

As part of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) program, The College of New Jersey has been awarded a three-year, $400,000 grant to strengthen innovation and encourage partnerships with industry, nonprofits and governmental entities. The college will partner with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in this work.

“TCNJ produces graduates who are prepared to immediately contribute to their fields and professions,” said Andrea Welker, dean of TCNJ’s School of Engineering and principal investigator for the grant. “The funds from this grant will help strengthen the connection between the college and the corporate, non-profit, and governmental arenas in new and dynamic ways.”

Welker is co-spearheading the effort with Sunita Kramer, dean of TCNJ’s School of Science. The two schools will be leading efforts to better connect the college to corporate partners by working closely with other academic schools on campus as well as the college’s Career Center and external relations team.

During the grant period, TCNJ will create an advisory council of college leaders  who are tasked with developing deliverable outcomes with current and future partners. To begin this process, the college will inventory, refresh and look to expand on existing relationships, while developing and improving on the college’s seamless approach to partnership at various levels of engagement.

Another key component of this work will be leveraging TCNJ’s career-assistance app Handshake as a means of connecting students with industry opportunities, including internships, externships and other experiential learning opportunities. The college will also explore opportunities with partners to develop training and workforce development support that best positions partners to excel in new and dynamic ways.                       

“This project will enable TCNJ to strengthen its institutional capacity and not only position our students for success as they enter the workforce but also respond to our partners’ workforce needs dynamically, benefitting our region and the state,” Kramer said. “We know these efforts will lead to enhanced student success, additional faculty research and scholarship opportunities, as well as enhanced engagement in the regional innovative ecosystem.”

Welker and Kramer both arrived at the college in 2022 and have emphasized the importance of synergy between the Schools of Engineering and Science. This grant will assist in supporting that initiative.

NSF aspires to accelerate the nation’s research and innovation enterprise and empower all Americans to participate in the science- and technology-driven workforce,” said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. “EPIIC reinforces NSF’s commitment to develop new, inclusive innovation ecosystems by connecting diverse networks of partners to work together to drive the expansion of key technologies — and the technology workforce — in the U.S. and in turn address pressing national, societal, and geostrategic challenges.

TCNJ is one of 47 institutions across the United States to be awarded a total of $19.6 million in EPIIC grant funding.