University building economy – Albuquerque Journal


In today’s knowledge economy, the role that universities play is taking on a fundamental transformation. Many public research universities are now recognized as economic engines that drive their state’s innovation. At UNM, we not only embrace this evolution but also seek to accelerate it as a catalyst to a better economy. From Los Alamos to White Sands with Sandia and the Air Force Research Labs in between, New Mexico is blessed with the best national research labs in America. By linking these labs with our research universities’ ability to bring knowledge from mind to market, we kick into high gear the momentum needed to help business and industry thrive.

Last year, we hosted an economic development summit in which venture capitalist and author Victor Hwang addressed an audience that included Gov. Susana Martinez, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and leaders from our state’s universities, national laboratories and government and business communities. Hwang described a “Rainforest” model where people of diverse backgrounds and talents converge to develop an “ecosystem” of mutual collaboration and trust that supports innovation – a model that has begun to take root here in Albuquerque.

Universities such as ours are central to bridging the connections to industry, research assets and government. The past year has seen an unprecedented convergence of public and private sector collaboration in developing the Innovate ABQ initiative to create, grow and attract new companies and jobs. While the project is still before our regents, what is truly exciting is the sense of shared ownership in constructing a model that has the power to transform New Mexico’s economy. The operative word here is “shared” – simply put, having skin in the game. Success is not possible without sharing the vision, investment and risk required. Success is not possible without sharing and advancing the anticipated benefits.

While a healthy economic environment is essential, a place where we can truly thrive is really about people. For us to live and work here, we must be able to find opportunity here. A 2011 National Governors Association report, “Degrees for What Jobs?” states, “A new era of educational strength and economic competitiveness lies not only in getting more students into – and successfully out of – college, but also in institutions of higher education helping to create new, well-paying jobs in the economy and getting our graduates ready for those jobs.”

At UNM, we have re-engineered our student success model, to emphasize the first-year experience, retention and degree completion. But we must also look beyond the degree. If higher education is not only going to drive economic growth but truly help it thrive, the success of our students must be supported by a job market that anticipates and develops jobs that match those degrees.

According to a 2010 Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report, it is estimated that the United States will come up at least 3 million post-secondary degrees short of employers’ demands by 2018. By cultivating and retaining a highly educated workforce supported by universities collaborating with public and private partners, we can optimize our ability to provide our scholars, scientists, communities and entrepreneurs a place in which to thrive. Read more here.

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