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WIU President's Executive Institute: Putting Ideas Into Action

February 5, 2018

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL -- A university's success comes not just from within, but from the individuals in the communities and regions an institution of higher education serves. The town-gown partnership is integral and community outreach is an essential - and necessary - initiative for a university.

Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas established the President's Executive Institute (PEI) at Western in Fall 2016 to ensure that WIU is the partner of choice for addressing the needs of the region, to continue to chart the University's course for a strong future and to continue the University's longstanding tradition and mission of providing outstanding educational opportunities to the citizens of the state and beyond. The PEI was publicly unveiled in June 2017.

"Through the University's strategic plan and the President's Executive Institute, Western serves as an even greater resource for, and stimulus to, educational, cultural, environmental, community and economic development in our region and beyond for the public good," WIU President Jack Thomas said at June 14 press conferences in Macomb and Moline to announce the PEI and the University's Strategic Plan Supplement. "Members of the PEI are helping Western, with your support and actions, to engage in innovation and transformation in the region. These plans and goals involve each of us at WIU. We all contribute to these important and necessary processes."

The President's Executive Institute, which was piloted under the direction of President Thomas during FY16, is led by Vice President for Quad Cities and Planning Joe Rives and Becky Paulsen, director of business engagement and outreach, and is comprised of approximately 20 members of the University community. The guiding force behind the PEI is the University's core value of social responsibility. The PEI can be found at

"We encourage all members of the Western Illinois University to become involved in the President's Executive Institute. Dynamic universities are associated with dynamic towns and regions, which in turn means that dynamic towns and regions are associated with dynamic universities," Rives added. "PEI participation and outcomes are a benefit to all of us. Western is at the forefront of community and economic development as we work with business, industry, education, government, education and other members of the public and private sector on our shared goals and priorities."

The goals of the PEI, which align with the Strategic Plan Supplement, include stabilize enrollment, support community and economic development (CED) and engage external organizations. Since Fiscal Year 2017, the PEI has been putting numerous ideas into action.

Stabilize Enrollment

Host Education Summits with education leaders:

* In FY17, 19 Education Summits, held in eight communities throughout the state, with 150 education leaders participating.
- As a result, additional campus visits were scheduled for more than 2,100 students from Havana, Astoria, Chicago Tech and West Prairie high schools.
- A Teacher Education Fair held at the WIU-Macomb campus to address teacher shortages in regional school districts.

* In FY18 (to date), 24 Education Summits have been held.
- Career fairs planned for teacher education, counseling, nursing, social work, supply chain management, accounting, agriculture, and law enforcement.

Create high school dual enrollment programs:

* An English 180 dual credit program was established at Cambridge (IL) High School, led by WIU English Department Chair Mark Mossman. In Fall 2017, WIU began providing general education, college-level English to Cambridge H.S. seniors. Mossman is again teaching at Cambridge this spring.

* In FY18 (to date), dual enrollment programs under consideration with six additional Illinois high schools.

* FY18: $100,000 grant received for QC-area students to take agriculture classes at WIU-QC at no cost (pipeline to WIU-Macomb agriculture program).

Enhance community college partnerships:

* In FY17, 29 meetings were held with community colleges throughout Illinois.
- New institutional agreements with 14 community colleges, for a total of 23 partnerships, that benefit residents from 68 Illinois counties.
- In FY18 (to date), additional partnerships established with community colleges.

Increase military/veterans outreach:

* In FY17, completed recruitment visits at Rock Island Arsenal, Scott AF Base, and Ft. Leonard Wood; advertising in GI Jobs Magazine; engaged in outreach activities for veterans; benchmarked best practices for military outreach.

* In FY18 (to date), completed recruitment visits at Rock Island Arsenal, Ft. Bliss, Ft. Leavenworth, Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Marine Air Corps Station, Mid-South Naval Base, Naval Base Kitsap, and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Support Community & Economic Development (CED)

Host CED Summits with community leaders:

* In FY17, nine CED Summits were held in four communities throughout the state of Illinois, with nearly 129 CED leaders participating.

Promote WIU's Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Small Business Development Center:

* In FY17, sponsored Rural Resources Rally in Quincy and Moline to promote the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at WIU, with 90 participants, 17 communities represented, and 28 state and federal agencies present.

* In FY17, expanded the Small Business Development Center (Macomb and Quad Cities). Through the SBDCs, 58 jobs were created, 35 jobs were retained, 17 business start-ups were created, and 171 clients were advised.

* In FY17, opened International Trade Center (ITC) at WIU-Quad Cities campus. Through the ITC, 13 jobs were retained and 82 clients were advised.

* In FY18 (to date), the IIRA has completed CED visioning and planning for five Illinois communities.

* In FY18 (to date), the ITC has worked with eight industries/corporations, including state and federal agencies.

Establish Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program for high-achieving students:

* Macomb and Moline programs in development, with inquiries from other communities.

Continue legislative forums:

* "Western 101" for legislators was established in FY17 to keep regional legislators informed about the status of institutional priorities, goals, opportunities, and challenges, as well as our accomplishments, service to the region, and unique programs.

* Continuing the University's work with legislative leaders to ensure adequate and consistent funding for Western Illinois University.

Assist with urban renewal projects:

* Provided support to Floreciente Neighborhood Revitalization (Moline, IL).

* FY18 (to date), hosted Small Business Saturday and conducted a Minority Business Workshop.

Engage External Organizations

Training and outreach for organizations and industries/addressing employer needs:

* In FY17, the University has responded to employer needs with new programs, internships, sponsored credit, and other corporate training programs.

* In FY18 (to date), the University has established the $500,000 Oliva Accountancy Challenge for scholarships.

* In FY18 (to date), the WIU School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration is working with Illinois Department of Corrections for undergraduate degree completion opportunities for correctional officers.

Encourage use of employee tuition assistance programs:

* In FY18 (to date), 31 participants in employee-related training programs.

Increase internship opportunities:

* In FY17, 921 students participated in internships as required through their major program, and an additional 127 students participated in student teaching assignments, along with many students who participated in self-guided work experience opportunities for credit.

Host Alumni Summits:

* In FY17, one Alumni Summit was held in Macomb, with 25 participants.

* In FY18 (to date), seven Alumni Summits have been held throughout Illinois, St. Louis and Phoenix.

Generated over $1 million in grants and donations during FY17

For more information about the PEI, contact or (309) 762-8843, or or (309) 298-2442.

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations