Creating new pathways for students to get real world experience while also contributing to the community is how Franklin Pierce both innovates and celebrates the importance of the main streets and downtowns near their campuses.
“One of my priorities as president of Franklin Pierce University,” says Kim Mooney, who became FPU’s sixth overall and first female president, “is to advocate for more intentional engagement with our local communities, not only lending to the vibrancy and health of these communities but also to our own sustainability.”
Even though FPU’s main campus is not in a typical college town or even a downtown setting, main streets and downtowns are important to the university, Mooney says.
First, she says, university officials see their presence in any community - whether it’s the residential campus in Rindge or the four graduate and professional centers around the state and in Goodyear, Arizona - as a vital component of an ecosystem. She cites the number of local employees as part of that ecosystem. Mooney says that FPU employs about 295 full-time people across the entire university with about 250 of those employees working at the Rindge campus in the heart of the Monadnock Region.
“Collectively, our Rindge employees earn $13 million annually, and many of them live, shop and seek services in this region,” Mooney says. “Because we invest significant institutional resources into recruiting students and employees to our campuses, we understand the critical role that vibrant main streets and downtowns play in offering the goods and services that help both to attract and retain them.
“We also look to Main Street and downtown businesses to engage with our smart, motivated students who seek internships, co-ops and employment.”
To that end, Mooney says during the past year, university officials reached out to business and industry leaders across the region and state to ask how FPU might best serve what Mooney calls, “the state’s talent imperative.”
The college has also asked, she says, how the university might work with those leaders to co-create living and learning laboratories that serve the collective needs and aspirations of the region.
“We are listening to our neighbors, collaborating on institutional responses and cultivating local partnerships,” she says. “And we are actively reviewing, reaffirming, renewing our academic portfolio based on these discussions and related research.”
Mooney says Franklin Pierce is nimble and able to respond swiftly and comprehensively to opportunities and needs. So, when C&S Wholesale Grocers reached out for help with a problem, FPU officials quickly assembled a team to work with C&S to not only clarify the problem but identify how it could be solved.
Out of this exercise, the C&S Scholars program was born. The program gives Franklin Pierce University students the opportunity to apply classroom learning to the professional work environment through a partnership with the company. The C&S Scholars Program provides networking opportunities, internships and a co-op pathway to employment after graduation.
“This internship and co-op model is an example of how the University directly connects with regional businesses and industries, identifies their issues and needs, and crafts solutions, which benefit the constituents, the community, and Franklin Pierce students,” Mooney says. “The C&S Scholars program is an example of developing new experiential learning, an educational cornerstone for Franklin Pierce University, to offer pathways to expanded opportunities for our students.”
Furthermore, she says, co-curricular activities such as the Business Minds Club, the Monadnock Incubator and Small Business Advisory Group offer additional opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in experiential learning to build their skills and networking tools.
During the past three years, Franklin Pierce has been engaging with municipalities and state departments to determine educational needs for their current and future employees. As a result, FPU now has formal educational partnerships with municipalities around the state that provide, Mooney says, affordable options, tuition discounts and accelerated time to complete degrees via an online platform. Now, thousands of town and city workers around the state have the opportunity to start and/or complete a degree and take advantage of the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) option, allowing nontraditional learners to earn university credit for work and life experiences.
“From our conversations with chiefs of police and fire in particular grew our fully online Emergency Medical Service (EMS) bachelor’s degree with two tracks: Bachelor of Science: completion degree for working paramedics and Bachelor of Arts: social science degree for others working in related fields,” Mooney says.
“We understand,” Mooney says, “that our responsiveness to the needs of these organizations will enrich and strengthen our communities.”
For more information on Franklin Pierce University visit franklinpierce.edu