NIU Recives Economic Prosperity University Award

  • Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
  • NIU
DEKALB, IL - Citing its leadership in developing high-speed fiber broadband networks throughout Illinois, Northern Illinois University has been named one of four recipients of the inaugural Economic Prosperity University awards from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization representing 219 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and related organizations.

NIU won APLU’s "Place" category award which recognizes a university that is excelling in community, social, and cultural development work. In the past 10 years, NIU’s leadership has resulted in bringing critical high-speed broadband connectivity to the northern half of Illinois. As of this fall, the university has overseen installation of more than 2,200 miles of fiber optic cable throughout the northern Illinois region and beyond.

Growing Businesses and Creating Jobs
The “Place” award went to NIU in part for its commitment to expanding broadband Internet access throughout the region and state. It also recognized NIU for enhancing university research capacity and helping to grow businesses and create jobs; an effort aimed at reducing fragmentation and maximizing the impact of P-20 activities by faculty, students, and staff through better coordination of these efforts; and support for growth and development of an aerospace cluster in a distressed region of the state, through workforce education, R&D partnerships, regional branding and stimulation of entrepreneurship.

Innovation and Economic Prosperity University
In addition, APLU named NIU as being among 16 inaugural institutions named as an “Innovation and Economic Prosperity University.” The APLU designation acknowledges universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.

“NIU is committed to innovation and economic development," said Anne Kaplan, NIU vice president of outreach and engagement. "Its leadership in regional broadband networks is an excellent example of that. Broadband today represents what our highway system did when it was first developed—it is changing the way we make our way in the world on many levels.”

John L. Lewis, NIU senior research scholar and chairman of the board of Illinois Fiber Resources Group (iFiber), added that “NIU’s expertise in development and management of fiber and broadband projects has propelled it to being among the nation’s leading universities spurring economic development and innovative opportunities.”

The iFiber project involves management of a $68.5 million grant awarded as part of the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunity Program. Counties included are Boone, Carroll, JoDaviess, LaSalle, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago. Initiated in 2010, the iFiber grant project wraps up this December with completion of a 900-mile network serving nearly 500 Community Anchor Institutions including schools, libraries, public safety agencies and municipalities.

NIU’s work in the field of broadband project development is providing collaborative opportunities in healthcare, business, education, government, energy and environment in the areas of research, instruction, public service, community engagement and innovation.


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