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The outside of Heritage Hall, where the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is housed on West Union Street, Feb. 14, 2024, in Athens, Ohio.

OU receives community, economic designation

Ohio University received a community and economic designation from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, or APLU, for its support of the Southeast Ohio region.

The Innovation and Economic Prosperity, or IEP, program honors higher education institutions focused on community development and economic growth.

The university first received the IEP designation in 2015 and was recently granted a five-year extension. In 2021, the university was recognized for APLU’s Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Economic Engagement Connections award, which is the top prize in its annual awards competition. The award recognizes innovative projects or programs in economic engagement.  

Stacy Strauss, director of the Innovation Center, said the designation acknowledges the university’s engagement with the community. 

“It’s just another recognition that the university at large really is committed to working in support of the communities where there is a campus, so not just Athens, but the regional campuses as well,” Strauss said. 

She said the Innovation Center assists entrepreneurs and small businesses in building their companies – although it focuses on Southeast Ohio businesses, there are businesses outside of the region that reach out for assistance – and provides them with resources and a workspace to get their company off the ground. 

Similarly, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service focuses on improving the economies in the state, including Southeast Ohio and Appalachia, and improving environmental and health issues, Jason Jolley, interim associate vice president of research and creative activity, said.

He said the school houses the U.S. Economic Development Administration, or EDA, University Center, which provides applied research and technical support for communities in the Appalachian region.  

The Voinovich School hosts an annual Appalachian Ohio State of the Region Conference to discuss different issues related to economic growth in the Appalachian region. The conference will take place in May. Jolley said the conference’s theme is looking for solutions to rural areas. 

“What are some examples of how we can improve and revitalize downtowns in rural places, address issues around affordable housing, workforce support, for example, childcare and eldercare (and) workforce training, and then how do we fund the projects that people need in rural areas?” he said. 

The event is attended by federal and state partners focused on rural development, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission and JobsOhio.  

Strauss said the university's involvement with the community also works toward solving problems in health care. 

The Heritage Community Clinic mobile clinic travels around 24 counties in the Southeast and Eastern Ohio region to offer health care services to uninsured or underinsured patients, according to a previous Post report

“Transportation is a huge barrier for many individuals in our region and our mobile health units help us to address this barrier to care,” Carole Merckel, director of clinical operation, wrote in an email.

Merckel said the fleet of fully equipped mobile health units can take medical services to outlying rural Ohio communities. She said that at the end of February, there will be an additional mobile unit fleet that does not require a commercial driver’s license to drive, so RNs can drive the vehicle.  

“The vast majority of those we serve have stated without our service they would not receive medical care,” Merckle wrote in an email. 


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