The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 15, 2012

A lot of winners in WRI-UPJ partnership

The Tribune-Democrat

— Our region is fortunate to have leaders in the business world and in academia who recognize the wonderful opportunities they create by working together.

Over the past several years we’ve touted many of the partnerships they have formulated.  

Here’s another: Windber Research Institute and Pitt-Johnstown. It’s a winning program for the institute and college, and also for students and our region’s economy.

“We couldn’t think of a better partner to link up with,” UPJ President Jem Spectar said at a press conference last week.

“It’s going to give our students a chance to work with world-class researchers,” added Steven Stern, who chairs UPJ’s natural sciences division.

Credit also goes to WRI CEO Tom Kurtz, who said the partnership addresses a “troubling” trend. That trend, he explained, is that although there is a growing demand worldwide in the science and research fields, interest is dwindling among U.S. students pursuing them as a career.

It’s a trend that probably won’t be reversed in the immediate future, but we applaud WRI and UPJ officials for recognizing a problem and doing what they can in our region to address it.

“We have Ph.D.s on our staff who are excited to teach (the students),” Kurtz said, noting that they will have UPJ faculty as partners.

We’re aware of many longtime partnerships among our health-care facilities and colleges and universities.

As one major example, Conemaugh Health System is utilized as clinical sites in partnership agreements with four colleges and universities, three vocational-technical schools and one high school, and its school of nursing has working agreements with four colleges and universities.

We also know that Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and our Cambria and Somerset county vo-tech schools have been quick to provide workplace training in areas where our businesses and industries have identified deficiencies.     

Kurtz said the possibilities offered by the latest partnership between UPJ and WRI are innumerable. It could, for example, lead to national funding opportunities to delve into collaborative research or new program development at UPJ, he said.

“That could be big for us. This could be just the beginning,” he said.

It’s very exciting indeed. These kinds of partnerships could go a long way to solving our often-talked-about “brain drain.”

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