St. Louis Community College’s Center for Plant and Life Sciences has received a 2019 Bellwether Legacy Finalist Award.
Sponsored by the Association of Community College Trustees, the Legacy Award acknowledges outstanding Bellwether-winning programs that have illustrated five or more years of successful implementation and replication. The first Legacy Awards were presented during the 20th anniversary of the Bellwether Awards in 2014, and the next Legacy Awards will take place when the 30th anniversary is celebrated in 2024.
For this 25th anniversary recognition, a national panel of expert judges chose the 10 finalists from Bellwether Award finalists from the previous 24 years. The 10 finalists then presented their programs at the 2019 Community College Futures Assembly earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas.
The Legacy Award winner was Amarillo College’s No Excuses Poverty Initiative.
The Community College Futures Assembly has not only been a national policy summit, but has also recognized and promoted cutting-edge, trendsetting programs that other colleges might find worthy of replicating. Since 1995, the assembly, sponsored by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida, has recognized exemplary and effective programs through the awarding of the coveted Bellwether Award. With more than 70 institutions receiving the Bellwether Award and 600 Bellwether finalists, these award-winning programs have advanced to further recognition and prestige.
The STLCC Center for Plant and Life Sciences (CPLS) was a finalist for the Bellwether Award in 2015. It was chosen as a Legacy finalist in 2019 for the innovative ways it helps train students for careers in the life sciences, while simultaneously assisting in building the biosciences industry within the St. Louis region.
“We would have loved to have been named the overall winner for the Bellwether Legacy Award, but when you look at the criteria for selection and pool from which the 10 finalists were selected, it’s an honor to have been included,” said Richard Norris, Ph.D., the center’s director. “It also is a testament to the success and impact of the STLCC Center for Plant and Life Sciences has had and the work done there by our small, but very effective staff, and the programs we work with across the district.”
The CPLS was established in 2006 as the college’s only districtwide Center of Excellence and supports the biotechnology and life science lab assistant programs on the Florissant Valley campus, the horticulture program on the Meramec campus, and the clinical laboratory technician program on the Forest Park campus. In 2009, it was relocated within the Bio-Research, Development and Growth (BRDG) Park, on the campus of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The move provided an opportunity for growth of STLCC’s life science-related programs. The CPLS also has been able to build strategic relationships with plant and life science industry partners, support the efforts of related programs through grant opportunities, and offer educational outreach and independent research opportunities for local area school districts.
The center has secured more than $4 million in external funding to support its programs.
Through an internal Contract Research Organization (CRO), the center works closely with a number of industry partners, especially those small start-up companies that also reside in the BRDG Park facility and nearby Helix Center to accomplish the following:
- Advance the growth of the regional biosciences
- Allow start-ups access to center’s equipment through lab use agreements
- Provide access to student talent through grant-funded internships, allowing companies to try a student intern at no cost while providing the student a paid internship opportunity.