Editorial: Scrutinizing the Innovate Stamford-UConn partnership

A building on the campus of UConn’s Stamford branch (nextgenct.uconn.edu)

The University of Connecticut is currently going through a bit of an identity crisis, stemming from the budget cuts the state of Connecticut laid out last year.  

To put it plainly, Connecticut does not think UConn gives enough value back to the state. Arguably, this is a fair viewpoint: UConn’s out-of-state acceptance rate has increased in recent years, and many graduates leave the state for more jobs and greener pastures. This is of course partly the fault of Connecticut itself, but we cannot by any means call UConn blameless. 

 This leaves UConn in a tough spot. Does it keep on going down this path of privatization and detachment from the state? Or does it put some effort and capital toward coming into its own as a benefit to the state (as we all hope it is)? 

Recent news coming out of Stamford suggests UConn’s administration has been hard at work brainstorming solutions to the latter. The Innovate Stamford project, introduced in 2017, has decided to team up with UConn to motivate students to work locally and breathe new life into the city.   

While not all the plans have been made public yet, the first stage involves a UConn-sponsored summer internship program in Stamford. According to the university, this program is meant to help students get exposed to innovation and entrepreneurship through working with local businesses.  

It is very clear that this move is as much a public relations stunt as anything. UConn needs to show it can not only train people for in-demand jobs, but can also keep these people in the state upon graduation. By pushing students to work with Stamford businesses, the hope is that the relations formed in these internships will blossom into a full-time position upon graduation, grounded in Connecticut. 

Now, this is not to deflate the good that a program like this can bring. Is UConn’s heart in the right place? Of course not, it’s an entity beholden to its board of trustees and the state. However, it’s hard to look too cynically on spurring local business while also providing extra opportunities to students.  

At the end of the day, this move is good for both UConn and Connecticut. It is just a shame that it took a cut of almost $200 million per year to UConn’s budget for the university to start taking paths like these. All we can hope is that this will be a longstanding lesson for UConn.