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The Community-Engaged College: Grand Valley State University's Industry and Community Partnership Model

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division Technical Session 4 - Innovating Engineering Education through Industry and Community Partnerships, Maker Spaces, Competitions, Research Initiatives, and Experiential Education

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Cooperative and Experiential Education

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Paper Authors


Casey Thelenwood Grand Valley State University

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Casey Thelenwood is the Assistant Dean for the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. Casey received her B.A. in Education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, her M.Ed. from Grand Valley State University, and is currently pursuing a MBA degree. She is a Certified Research Administrator through the Research Administrators Certification Council.

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Paul D. Plotkowski Grand Valley State University

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Paul Plotkowski is the founding Dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing and Professor of Engineering at Grand Valley State University. Over the past 29 years he has led the development of an emerging engineering program into a comprehensive college that now offers 10 BS and 5 MS degrees to a population of over 2,300 students. He holds BSE, MSE and Ph.D. degrees from Oakland University.

Dr. Plotkowski is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He received the ASME Dedicated Service award, and other distinguished awards, including the Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from SME, the Outstanding Teaching award from Pi Tau Sigma, and the Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Experiential Education from the Cooperative and Experiential Education Division of ASEE. He is former vice president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and serves as an ABET evaluator for both mechanical and manufacturing engineering programs.

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Brent Michael Nowak Grand Valley State University

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Dr. Brent M. Nowak, PhD is the founding Executive Director of the applied Medical Device Institute at Grand Valley State University. aMDI is a non-academic unit of the College of Engineering and Computing that provides doctoral-level, multi-disciplinary engineering analysis, design, fabrication, and testing of emerging medical devices and science at the pace of industry, while serving a broad range of clients from the healthcare to medical device manufacturing industries.

Over the last 30 years, Dr. Nowak has led product and technology development programs spanning ideation through commercialization; field use and application in areas including robotic systems, autonomous underwater vehicles and medical devices; and entrepreneurial ventures in formation, pre-seed, and seed stages that have been successfully transitioned to industry.

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This work-in-progress paper will highlight the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Seymour & Esther Padnos College of Engineering & Computing's (PCEC) community engagement and outreach initiatives including programs targeting industry and K-12 school partnerships. Our current avenues for community engagement, recent developments in support of industry partnerships, lessons learned, and opportunities for future expansion will be outlined. The process of creating a communication plan to ensure industry and K-12 partners are aware of the multiple avenues for engagement with the college will also be discussed.

The Padnos College of Engineering & Computing has always deeply valued industry partnerships. Our engineering programs were developed at the request of, and in collaboration with, industry stakeholders in order to bolster the professional workforce in West Michigan. Since conception, our programs have grown strategically in response to the changing needs of local employers. We have worked hard to support the K-12 STEM talent pipeline by fostering students’ interest in engineering and technology careers through summer camps and outreach programs. We are strongly rooted in the local community, working together on innovative methods for student engagement, talent development, and solving problems.

As industry needs and student populations shift over time, PCEC is committed to expanding our employer partnerships and rising to meet changes in demand. To ensure success, five key avenues through which PCEC engages with community partners were identified and a comprehensive communication strategy highlighting opportunities for engagement and support was developed. The five key avenues are: 1) K-12 Pipeline Development, 2) Experiential Education, 3) Applied Research & Development, 4) Talent Recruitment, and 5) Continuous Learning.

Recently, the addition of a new Innovation Design Center with dedicated space for K-12 outreach, industry project work, and applied research and development has inspired us to think creatively about the ways in which we are engaging with industry and the community. While PCEC remains committed to K-12 outreach, talent recruitment, and experiential learning through industry co-op and internships, we are also aware that employers are seeking opportunities to enhance the skills of their current employees in response to rapid technological advances, and that they value the opportunity to leverage university faculty and student expertise in solving industry problems. Subsequently, PCEC has expanded industry engagement through the creation of new applied research and development institutes that support companies in product development, pre-certification testing, rapid prototyping, and application development. PCEC is also working to expand course offerings to be more accommodating of adult learners, professional skillset development, and the need for upskilling that occurs throughout employees’ careers.

Input and feedback from community and industry partners has been central to the development and expansion of our community engagement efforts. We are optimistic about the future growth and infusion of community engagement initiatives into our courses and pedagogy. Together we can build a stronger program, a more relevant curriculum, a robust talent pipeline, and a workforce better prepared to meet the demands and solve the problems of tomorrow.

Thelenwood, C., & Plotkowski, P. D., & Nowak, B. M. (2020, June), The Community-Engaged College: Grand Valley State University's Industry and Community Partnership Model Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35298

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