When Debra and Monica heard their names called from the podium, they jumped up from the table, hugged each other, and joined in some hearty “Go Cougs” started by their colleagues.

It was their first time attending the University Economic Development Association Annual Meeting, and now they would be returning home with national recognition for their program, Rural Pathways to Prosperity (P2P). P2P was selected from four Leadership and Collaboration Award of Excellence finalists as this year’s most innovative effort to support the development of collaborative economic development strategies. See the press release here, and read about a business owner’s experience in the program here.

Another great WSU initiative, the Team Mentoring Program, was a finalist in the talent development category, so they also joined us in Anchorage for the meeting last week. Read more about the program’s impact here. We were proud of both organizations who brought energy and strong representation of WSU’s economic development initiatives to the national stage.


WSU has been a member of UEDA for four years. The organization gives us a chance to exchange best practices with other university professionals who are working with the private sector and economic development stakeholders to improve the economic vitality of their regions. In partnership with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, UEDA also developed a framework that helps university’s define their unique role in economic development, as well as define metrics that demonstrate the value of universities in today’s new economy.

Other than the excitement over our award winners and finalists, here are a few of our favorite things from the meeting:

We were inspired by:

The keynote about the new model of education Arizona State University has spent over 10 years building, with some pretty significant outcomes. While still promoting and even increasing access to the university, ASU has also increased their research outputs, innovation efforts and student entrepreneurship. U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 rankings place ASU as the number one most innovative school in the U.S., bumping MIT and Stanford to second and third.

As WSU increases enrollment in online classes and campuses across the state, launches a new research initiative, fosters strategic, mutually beneficial partnerships with industry, and expands its commercialization efforts, it is helpful to hear how other public universities are also taking strides to match the needs of today’s economy.

We brought home:

In addition to the shiny plaque Monica and Debra received, and a little social media engagement award, we arrived back in Seattle with new ideas and models for effective economic development activities. A few favorites include:

Looking for these kinds of best practices? Check out the case studies from the Awards of Excellence finalists and winners.

Want to be involved next year?

If you are involved in a program or initiative that would qualify for this award, let us know and we will keep you informed about next year’s nominations.