Professional Edge Center receives new grant

The Professional Edge Center received a $1 million dollar grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. According to recently appointed Associate Vice President of the Professional Edge Center Corey Wilson, the grant will assist in the University of Indianapolis’ efforts to connect students to the business community.

“With the additional money that we now have, it’s just going to enhance the opportunities that we have for engagement of our students here on campus,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, the Professional Edge Center, which launched this fall, was formed with the goal of strengthening connections between students and the business community. Career Services, Alumni Relations and Community Programs were merged to form the center, which eventually will be composed of eight divisions: entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, health care, manufacturing and logistics, financial services, the arts, communications and public services. Each area will be staffed with a faculty lead, industry contacts and as many as ten alumni, all aiming to connect students to the business community.

Lilly Endowment Inc. requested plans from higher education institutions that would provide students with business connections. In response, UIndy submitted plans for the Professional Edge Center. Wilson said that the university committed to institutionalizing the program with or without the grant. Wilson feels that the grant will help make the center better.

The grant will help provide funding for staffing, events, faculty leads and overall operations. Wilson said that the center ultimately wants to help students succeed in their lives beyond UIndy.

“The general accomplishment should be that we should affect students in their efforts in obtaining jobs post-graduation,” Wilson said.

However, the Professional Edge Center does have some specific accomplishments in mind for the grant’s three-year window. One goal of the Professional Edge Center will be to help students acquire and enhance skills necessary in professional businesses such as networking, presenting and conducting meetings. Wilson has heard that employers are finding that students lack the necessary expertise in these skills.

“Employers are saying they [students] still need some opportunities for additional mentoring,” Wilson said.

Wilson sees the center as an immense opportunity for faculty, alumni and industry contacts to come together to prepare students for the professional world.

“That’s exciting,” Wilson said. “To think that there’s going to be all this activity campus-wide relative to enhancing the opportunities for students to become more marketable.”

While students will benefit from the prospects arising from each of the sectors, alumni also have a chance for a positive experience. Executive Director of Development Andy Kocher hopes that the Professional Edge Center will provide alumni with meaningful engagement opportunities working with the students and faculty.

“It will be a very rewarding experience for our alumni,” Kocher said. “Because they will not only have a chance to get to know the students and get to know the faculty, but they will have a chance to help the students succeed as they begin their careers.”

As the center has grown, Wilson has been listening to the campus community’s thoughts and sees both a need and a desire for student engagement opportunities. He encourages students to share their thoughts and ideas about the Professional Edge Center.

“I’m always open to learning from students, and we still are operating, even today, with the desire and hope that students will engage us,” Wilson said.

Wilson urges students to be proactive in pursuing engagement opportunities and encourages them to visit Stierwalt Alumni House for more information about the Professional Edge Center.

“I’d like to see students come over to the Alumni House to meet us and interact with us,” Wilson said. “Any questions that they have about resume writing, interviewing, things like that—I think those are great opportunities that exist even today.”