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Kean University

Kean Consortium Unites University, Union County, Municipalities

Officials from Kean and local government officials take part in U22 Consortium

Kean University is working with Union County’s municipalities and the county government to support public employees through a new consortium highlighting the University’s educational offerings and research expertise.

The U-22 Consortium, which includes the Union County government and the county’s 21 municipalities, makes a Kean education available to workers through KEANetwork. The program provides tuition discounts for eligible students, application fee waivers and other services to members.

As part of the consortium, Kean is also sharing its expertise with local government partners through Spotlight Series events, focusing on hiring, retention and other workplace issues. 

"We are forging collaborative partnerships with Union County and our local municipalities. By doing so, we establish Kean University as the preeminent source for developing the region's public service workforce talent and meeting its evolving labor needs," said Kean Senior Vice President for Transformational Learning and External Affairs Joseph Youngblood II, Ph.D. 

Youngblood said the University and the county have worked successfully on numerous partnerships. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kean was a site for the county’s testing, vaccination and food distribution programs. When KEANetwork was formed in 2019, Union County became the first member to take part.

“We’re here to have a serious conversation about how we as an educational institution can work with you to support what’s happening in the public sector,” Youngblood said. “We are an urban research university and an anchor institution for our communities. We’re better together.”

The Spotlight Series launched in late May. The first meeting featured a panel discussion on government hiring and retention.

The event featured panelists Adrian Mapp, mayor of Plainfield; Claudia Martins, director of personnel and labor relations management for Union County; Veysel Yucetepe, Ph.D., professor and department chair of the Kean College of Business and Public Management; Michele Meade, deputy director of the state Division of Local Government Services; and Ed Lee, director of human resources for Peerless Beverages. 

The panelists discussed how to attract and maintain talent with employee perks such as tuition reimbursement through a program like KEANetwork, as well as more intangible benefits.

“People want meaning. They want to know they can make a difference,” Meade said.

Union County Commissioner Alexander Mirabella, who is also a member of the Wenzhou-Kean University Board of Directors, attended the Spotlight Series event. He said the U22 Consortium provides valuable connections for its members. 

“I appreciate that Kean held this forum for Union County’s mayors, business administrators and leaders, who were able to visit the campus and learn about resources available,” he said. “Through KEANetwork, local and municipal government workers in Union County have access to Kean University, and the ability to acquire skills and education that will help them succeed in their careers." 

In addition to the panel discussion, Kean Vice President for Transformational Learning Jay O’Callaghan spoke in detail about the benefits of the KEANetwork and the new Kean University Global Education and Resource Campus degree-completion program. The program, which launched this spring for students with some college credits but no degree, provides students a faster and more affordable path to graduation.

The initial cohort of 30 students, who had an average age of 47, did “really well” in the first semester, O’Callaghan said. The program had its first graduate in May.

“Higher education needs to think about who our students are in a new way. Kean is a leader across the state in recognizing that today’s traditional student was formerly the non-traditional student,” O’Callaghan said. “The average student we see at Kean is not 18.”