MONACA, Pa. — Four Beaver County-area institutions of higher education made their commitment to a shared future official on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
Penn State Beaver, the Community College of Beaver County, Geneva College and Robert Morris University held a joint news conference at Uncommon Grounds Café in Aliquippa to unveil the Bridges and Pathways College Partnership, a consortium dedicated to improving the lives of Beaver Valley residents through access to education, cultural events and economic opportunities.
“We believe this historic partnership not only serves the needs of our students but also strengthens our community,” said Penn State Beaver Chancellor Jenifer Cushman.
The partnership is a response to the Beaver Valley’s rapidly changing economic identity and the institutions’ collective vision to serve the educational, workforce development and quality-of-life needs of residents and businesses in the area.
“Today’s announcement and the creation of this consortium signifies a turning point for higher education in Beaver County and the region,” said Chris Reber, president of the he Community College of Beaver County.
Part of addressing those needs involves helping students — particularly those in under-served communities — gain access to higher education opportunities and secure the financial resources they need to attend a college or university. To that end, the partnership has joined with the Beaver County Regional Council of Governments and the Beaver County Foundation to develop two scholarships for local students who attend one of the four Bridges and Pathways institutions.
The COG scholarship is open to a second-year student who has an interest in government and also includes an internship opportunity. The Pathways scholarship, which was established with an initial donation from the Beaver County Partnership for Community and Economic Growth, is open to any Beaver County high school graduate.
“Robert Morris University is grateful to be a part of this coalition that will help launch Beaver County students into great careers and great lives. Given the looming workforce shortage in the Pittsburgh region, we must ensure all communities in the area have access to both a world-class education as well as cutting-edge workforce training,” said Robert Morris President Chris Howard.
The partnership also plans to collaborate on an advisory group for local businesses and a cultural series that will offer entertainment and learning opportunities to the community.
The Bridges Advisory Group consists of faculty and students from the partner institutions who will solve problems and build projects for local businesses. The group will eventually be housed within the Beaver Valley Innovation Hub, a regional entrepreneurial and co-working space currently in the fundraising phase. Until the hub is built, the group will operate out of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce.
The shared cultural series is an effort to multiply the cultural impact of the partnership institutions on the community. The first effort, a common book project, led to discussions between faculty, staff, students and community members on all four campuses and will culminate with trips to Jerusalem and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in the spring.
Future efforts could include a speaker series and arts offerings.
“We’re committed together to extend cultural engagement,” said Calvin L. Troup, president of Geneva College. “It’s vital to us as educational institutions. The rich cultural heritage of the Beaver Valley provides opportunities for meaningful cultural considerations through our partnership.”
The partnership has developed a website — bridgespathways.com — so the community can keep abreast of the opportunities this conscious sharing of resources and ideas will afford them.