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$1 million Manchester grant brings new degree in sales, internships and collaborations

A $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will ignite several exciting new Manchester University programs and collaborations, including an undergraduate sales degree that is unprecedented in Indiana.

The MU initiative, “Liberal Arts Plus,” will enable the University to expand its leadership and engagement in northeast Indiana’s economic development to improve employment opportunities for Indiana college graduates. In addition to a new bachelor’s degree (and minor) in sales, Manchester University will:

-Develop at least five new certificate programs that align with the workforce needs of Indiana employers over the next five years.

-Engage 60 Manchester students in internships to provide them with professional experience and contribute to economic development initiatives in northeast Indiana through strategic use of their talents.

-Collaborate with work force agencies, other northeast Indiana universities and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership to strengthen MU’s relationship with employers and leverage the Lilly Endowment grants for more support.

-Develop a Smartphone software application that will help guide all MU students in their career readiness through college.

“Liberal Arts Plus will embed the University more deeply in the state’s economic future,” said MU President Jo Young Switzer. “In turn, our students will become catalysts for change and realize their personal stake in Indiana’s vitality.”

Liberal Arts Plus will help close the skills gap between the needs of Indiana employers and the liberal arts preparation of Manchester students. Manchester University also will create new opportunities for internships focused specifically on regional economic development. Those efforts will help business and industry expand their capacities and markets, which, in turn, will create a climate for additional high-skill jobs.

Manchester is among 39 accredited colleges and universities to receive a total of $62.7 million from the endowment to enhance and expand opportunities for their college graduates to find meaningful employment in Indiana. The grants support the endowment’s Initiative to Promote Opportunities Through Educational Collaborations.

“The endowment has seen firsthand that colleges and universities have the ability and desire to help improve the job prospects of college graduates in Indiana, and we wanted to give them the resources to be even more strategic and ambitious,” said Sara B. Cobb, vice president for education for the Endowment.

In 2003 and 2008, Endowment support helped cement the foundation for Manchester’s shared-funding internship program that has fostered professional connections in Indiana for 195 students through 2012.

“Through those programs, we enhanced our career services for students, including online job and internship posting and alumni networking,” said Liz Bushnell, associate dean and director of Career Services, a robust career development program that engages MU students from their first year through graduation.

Manchester’s graduate placement rates are high – an average of 94 percent over the past five years. About 71 percent of Manchester’s 2012 graduates remained in Indiana.

“Now, the Endowment has raised the bar on Manchester University’s efforts to help graduates find meaningful employment in Indiana,” said President Switzer.

Manchester already offers three certificate programs – Innovation, Conflict Resolution and Libraries and Literacy.

The sales degree is a natural for Manchester, whose largest academic department is Accounting and Business. About a fifth of undergraduate degrees earned at MU are granted through that department.

Researchers indicate that most Indiana businesses – from orthopedics to rubber, pharmaceuticals to plastics, and forestry to steel – depend on an effective sales force to prosper. Without sales that generate revenue, companies can’t create jobs. Despite the obvious role sales plays in economic development, relatively few universities nationwide or in Indiana offer any coursework that examines the research behind effective sales strategies.

The sales degree will incorporate Manchester’s acumen in helping its students develop skills in listening, empathy, effective oral and written communication, and critical thinking.

Included among the 60 paid internships the grant will fund is a continuation of the Wabash County Economic Report, which enhances efforts to attract potential employers to the county.

“The grant will allow us to hire additional student interns to expand our research on the economic conditions in Wabash County,” said John Deal, associate professor of economics. “And, it will give more students an opportunity to gain practical experience with the collection and analysis of data and technical writing, skills that are in high demand in the job market.”

Posted on 2013 Dec 10