Note: Detailed descriptions of the University of Nebraska’s American Rescue Plan proposals are available here.
Calling them “bold ideas with big impact for Nebraskans,” University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter today presented a series of university proposals focused on workforce development, healthcare, and research and innovation for state leaders to consider for American Rescue Plan funding.
Carter, in testimony before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said the federal relief dollars present a unique opportunity to invest in initiatives that will not only help Nebraska recover from the pandemic, but grow the state’s economic competitiveness and quality of life for generations to come.
“The chancellors and I have spent months talking about what we as Nebraska’s public university system could bring forward that would have the most meaningful and long-lasting impact for the people of our state,” Carter said. “These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to change the trajectory for Nebraska for years to come – solutions our university is uniquely positioned to deliver.
“We look forward to working closely with our elected leaders in the weeks and months ahead to advance our state through strategic use of these recovery dollars.”
The university’s proposals are:
UNK-UNMC Rural Health Complex: Building on the successful UNK-UNMC collaboration that resulted in the Health Science Education Complex in Kearney, the new Rural Health Complex would significantly expand capacity for students in a range of health fields to train at UNK and remain in rural Nebraska after graduation. Quality, accessible health care is essential to the survival of rural communities, but Nebraska faces urgent workforce shortages. All counties except Douglas and Lancaster are designated as shortage areas for at least one type of primary care, for example, and there is high demand for more primary care physicians, nurses, dentists and allied health professionals. The need for greater mental health services is acute. The new health complex would create a nationally unique model for training and delivering the rural healthcare workforce.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to move forward and make a huge difference in rural Nebraska,” said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen. “It is an initiative, a world-class medical center and national model that would move the needle in many areas and change health care for years to come. We are doing something different than everybody else.”
UNL-USDA National Center for Resilient & Regenerative Agriculture companion facility: The facility, a public-private partnership, would be a companion to the major USDA agricultural research facility planned for Nebraska Innovation Campus. The companion building would house research and ag-tech startup space where experts from the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, other UNL departments, and federal, state and private-sector partners could collaborate to solve the pressing challenges facing Nebraska’s most important industry.
UNL artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and Holland Computing Center expansion: The Holland Computing Center offers the fastest resources in Nebraska with supercomputers located at the Schorr Center at UNL and Peter Kiewit Institute at UNO. A new data center at Nebraska Innovation Campus would significantly expand the Holland Computing Center’s capacity for high-speed computing, research and company growth. The university envisions new workforce and research development efforts in AI, machine learning, data science, cybersecurity, agriculture, manufacturing and medicine, with additional opportunities to collaborate with the National Strategic Research Institute and other partners.
“The UNL proposals will directly support the future of agriculture in Nebraska by supporting cutting-edge research to advance precision agriculture and crops that are more resilient,” said UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green. “We will also provide additional high-speed computing resources to Nebraska businesses and our UNL researchers, focusing specifically in the growing opportunities in the use of AI and critical cybersecurity needs.”
UNMC Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute: Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most lethal forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of just 5 to 10 percent. UNMC scientists have made important breakthroughs, but much more work is needed. The new Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute, a public-private partnership, would expand early diagnosis and treatment research, with the goal of detecting pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage and improving therapies for patients.
UNMC Global Center for Health Security: The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in health systems’ abilities to mitigate emerging health threats. UNMC’s Global Center for Health Security is a recognized leader in preparing health systems for disease and pandemic threats, but additional investment would accelerate the center’s work in anticipating, preparing for, and mitigating emerging infectious diseases.
“The university’s proposals for UNMC would be a terrific investment for these one-time funds. Rural health education, expanding pancreatic cancer research, and growing our global health security programs are among the highest priorities of the University of Nebraska Medical Center,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. “The funding in these areas would help UNMC truly transform even more of the lives of Nebraskans and beyond.”
UNO biomechanics research: Already a world leader in biomechanics – the study of human movement – UNO would use additional funds to expand cardiovascular device manufacturing and testing capabilities, as well as soft tissue imaging and analysis. The result would be increased capacity for research, grant funding, and collaborative projects with public and private partners.
UNO National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology and Education (NCITE) Center: Established last year with a historic federal grant, NCITE is a federal counterterrorism center that provides research and a workforce pipeline for the Department of Homeland Security and other key agencies. Funding would expand the center’s capacity to conduct research on keeping communities safe and predicting and thwarting terrorism.
UNO STEM Trail Center: The STEM Trail Center advances STEM capacity and competency, serving as a voice for STEM needs in the metropolitan area and providing a shared space for STEM professional development initiatives. Current programming demands exceed the center’s space. Funding would allow for construction of a new space for the STEM Trail Center, paving the way for expanded initiatives focused on training for Nebraskans wanting to pursue high-skill, high-demand, high-wage (H3) jobs; professional development for Nebraska teachers; and student entrepreneurship programming.
“As Nebraska’s metropolitan university, UNO is uniquely positioned to drive economic growth and quality of life across the Omaha area,” said UNO Chancellor Joanne Li. “We have a special opportunity to further elevate UNO’s work in areas where we are already a recognized leader – areas like biomechanics, counterterrorism research and STEM education – to make an even greater impact in our community and around the world. We at UNO look forward to continued engagement with our elected leaders throughout this important process for our state’s future.”
Enterprise Resource Planning systems upgrades: The University of Nebraska hosts the business information system and student information system for both the NU system and the Nebraska State College System. Funds would allow for hardware and equipment upgrades to improve disaster recovery and cybersecurity capabilities, while extending the life cycles of both systems.
The university also supports a proposal from the Nebraska chambers of commerce to invest in a new statewide internship initiative in partnership with philanthropic entities.