KU Edwards Campus receives $1.16M grant from Johnson County to assist with student financial aid, lab upgrades
The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners has approved the allocation of Covid funds for three community investment programs, including the KU Edwards Campus. Each program will receive $1,166,670 to help increase capacity of the county’s workforce through workforce development, business education, and learning opportunities for special needs populations.
“We are honored to be recognized as a strong partner in developing workforce talent for our community,” said Stuart Day, dean of the KU Edwards Campus and School of Professional Studies. “Funds will be used to provide needed scholarships for students from vulnerable populations and to outfit a molecular diagnostics lab on campus to train and equip new scientists in diagnosing emergent infectious diseases.”
Financial hardship caused by the pandemic has been a significant barrier to students trying to complete their education. According to Day, the priority will be to get scholarship funding to students in need to expedite degree completion and allow them to enter the workforce.
“Funding this scholarship project will immediately impact students who live or work in Johnson County and are in the most need of financial assistance,” said Carolyn McKnight, KU senior director of community relations and business development. “Our target populations for the scholarship will be under-employed and underrepresented students and we have the academic and student support to provide the highest level of service to them.”
Tuition grants, which will be roughly equivalent to the cost of a three-hour course, will encourage faster degree completion, providing skilled employees for area companies that much sooner.
The new molecular diagnostics lab will also have a positive impact on the community by dramatically improving its ability to identify and fight any new infectious diseases.
According to Day, the cost of the new lab will be $530,000 and will be equipped with the latest technology and cutting-edge tools. This will enable faculty and students to do quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) testing, DNA synthesizing, and DNA sequencing – all important for detecting infectious diseases. This grant will also allow the KU Edwards Campus to expand its programs in Biotechnology, Applied Biological Sciences, and Health Sciences.
“The biological training lab will be a space where future scientists will gain detailed knowledge of DNA-based and molecular-based principles in concert with direct, hands-on experience,” said Brendan Mattingly, program director for biological sciences. “We will be able to offer academic programing, laboratory training workshops, and research projects focused on developing innovative, rapid diagnostic testing platforms. The result will be more highly skilled, highly trained employees for companies in Johnson County that require very specialized workforce talent.”
“The KU Edwards Campus is very grateful for this grant,” said Day, “and we will quickly and effectively put the funds to use to help our students complete their degrees and produce the skilled workforce Johnson County depends on to continue to grow and thrive.”