high impact education

high impact education

Reaching Way Beyond the Classroom
Jwu Magazine Winter 2010 High Impact Education

by William Donovan

If you choose to attend Tulane, you make your way to New Orleans. Notre Dame will gladly provide directions to South Bend and Stanford has no address beyond California. Yet here is Johnson & Wales University, the largest private university in Rhode Island, catalyst for revitalization in downtown Providence, opening campuses in the South, Southeast and Rocky Mountains. It’s a growth model that veers from traditional higher education. With the number of college-age teens in decline, JWU anticipated by more than a decade, trends toward students staying closer to home for their college experience. The entrepreneurial approach has paid dividends for students, alumni and the four host communities JWU calls home.

When Johnson & Wales moves in, local economies benefit. And the benefits have been substantial. In Denver and Charlotte, local leaders were involved in bringing the university to their cities. They believed that thousands of Johnson & Wales students, plus the university as an employer and consumer, along with its history of community service, would have a positive impact on their cities. Research and anecdotal information say that has been the case.

A study by Appleseed Inc., a New York-based economic development consulting firm that works with colleges around the country, found that Johnson & Wales has been a significant economic engine in the cities where it has a campus.

beyond the classroom
Appleseed used a model that determines the direct and indirect economic impact of the campus in each city. Appleseed combined the number of Johnson & Wales University employees with the number of jobs supported by the university’s spending on supplies, services and construction; and then added the number of jobs generated by the spending of students, employees and visitors to the campuses, and determined that in fiscal 2009

  • The Providence Campus, largest of the school’s four locations, accounted for nearly 3,800 jobs in Rhode Island and $327.6 million in economic output.
  • The North Miami Campus, oldest of the regional campuses and founded in 1992, accounted for about 740 jobs in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and $63.4 million in economic output.
  • The Denver Campus, opened in 2000, already had an impact of 545 jobs in metropolitan Denver and $50.5 million in economic output.
  • The Charlotte Campus, founded just six years ago, accounted for more than 580 jobs in Mecklenburg County and $52.8 million in economic output.

JWU High Impact Education, Community ServiceYet Johnson & Wales University’s impact goes beyond the dollars and jobs in those communities. Each time the university has expanded into a city, it has revived an area fighting blight and abandonment or one in need of an institution to bring it back to life.

For Johnson & Wales, the expansion is simply good business. Establishing campuses in other cities means reaching more students. University President John Bowen ’77 says the majority of JWU’s students live within a 500-mile radius of their campus.

“Instead of being like Notre Dame that has built a reputation on football and taken that nationwide, we are dedicated to having a strong reputation in every region we’re in as well as nationally,” says Bowen.

Locating in struggling areas of a city means lower acquisition costs and the opportunity to be the center of that area’s rejuvenation. In North Miami, the school bought a closed hospital. In Charlotte, JWU moved into a blighted area being redeveloped. In Providence, the university has worked with the city to renovate dilapidated structures that are historically significant.

“It’s a simple value statement: leave it better than you found it,” Bowen says of the university’s choice of locations. “Anyone can go out to the middle of the country and desecrate a 20-acre parcel and build megastructures. I don’t believe that’s good for the environment or for the type of students that we attract.

JWU High Impact Education “Take something that’s a problem area and turn it around,” he adds. For Johnson & Wales students, community service is an important component of education. The university’s impact in its four communities is felt by their involvement with nonprofit organizations, elementary and high schools and civic organizations. During the 2008–2009 academic year, students, faculty and staff performed nearly 160,000 hours of community service.

The charitable efforts have not gone unnoticed. Since the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll was created in 2006, all four JWU campuses have been named to it for each of the three years since. The Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition that colleges and universities can receive for supporting community service.

Providence, North Miami, Denver and Charlotte have also been the beneficiaries of JWU’s academic emphasis on entrepreneurship. A 2008 career progression survey of JWU alumni from the 10 preceding graduating classes found that one in five graduates was a current or former business owner. These young entrepreneurs from all four campuses are active in a wide range of industries in the U.S.

  • About 27 percent of them have started restaurants, catering or other specialized food service businesses.
  • About 17 percent own professional services, IT, finance, insurance or real estate businesses.
  • About six percent own a manufacturing business and another six percent own hotels or other accommodations.

Two campuses, Providence and Denver, host a federally funded Small Business Development Center (SBDC). During the past two years, the R.I. SBDC has assisted more than 5,000 entrepreneurs, helping businesses earn an additional $92.5 million in revenues and create or retain 1,020 jobs in the state. The SBDC at the Denver Campus provided consulting services to 66 businesses during 2008 and 2009. In fall 2008, students taking the College of Business course, Small Business Consulting, provided more than 444 hours of research, strategic planning and consulting services to the SBDC’s clients to meet their course objectives.

By attracting students with a desire to be entrepreneurs, Johnson & Wales brings people to its campuses whose small ideas in class might become bigger ideas for a community years later.

“You attract a student to this area, if they like the city they’ll open a business here,” says Bowen. “The largest limo company in Providence was started by one of our students 15 years ago. He got a loan from his parents and bought a car. Now he’s up to about 30 cars, paying taxes, employing drivers, buying cars locally. He’s adding to the community.”

View related charts  (PDF, 704K)

North Miami