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5 Universities Forming Community Partnerships to Advance 21st Century Skills

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities have named five grant recipients for their Collaborative Opportunity Grant program, funding efforts at public urban research universities to better prepare low-income, first-time college students for a 21st century workforce.

New grant recipients are the University of California, Riverside, Florida International University, San José State University, University of Texas at Arlington and University of Texas at El Paso. Each institution will receive $50,000 to further their partnerships with local community organizations and businesses working to better equip students with the skills needed in the modern workforce, APLU and USU said in a news release.

The Collaborative Opportunity Grants support emerging and innovative university-community partnerships aimed at transforming university "practices, programs, policies and culture to improve 21st century skills teaching, learning, and transferability to the workforce," the organizations said. The grants require recipients' initiatives to target supporting low-income, first-time college students, and the programs must be a collaborative effort between a public university and an external organization such as community colleges, school districts, businesses or local governments.

Following are the recipients' programs that were chosen for the grants:

University of California, Riverside is teaming with Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to create a five-week summer internship for 50 students, where they will learn digital application design, receive mentoring services from university academic mentors and entrepreneurs in the community, and work on live projects helping their community. The pilot program will eventually lead to a permanent academic internship model to be integrated into university academics.

Florida International University is partnering with the nonprofit MITRE to develop a pilot program to provide students with technical and interpersonal skills and experiential opportunities, with the goal of scaling the model to "provide more direct pathways to careers through skills training and connections to employers."

San José State University is teaming up with Milpitas Unified School District and San Jose City College to open more doors to computer science degrees for low-income, first-generation and minority students in the region. The project will include a summer academy at SJSU, dual-enrollment courses aligned with SJSA computer science degree programs, comprehensive mentoring for student participants, and access to computer science learning for teachers and teacher-candidates in the school district.

University of Texas at Arlington is working with technology-training provider Revature to recruit more students to high-demand technology majors, support their career planning, and enact project-based learning and employment placement to ensure students graduate sooner with in-demand skills and are prepared to thrive in new jobs immediately after completing their degrees.

University of Texas at El Paso is partnering with El Paso Community College to expand access to UTEP's new bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree, emphasizing more opportunities for students to develop 21st century skills verified through integrated coursework and certificates. The effort will also include integrated advising and greater support for student success.

The grants are supported by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].

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