Kean to receive $4.25M in federal funding to support 3 key initiatives

Kean University will receive more than $4 million for a series of new initiatives tied to its new designation as an urban research university under the federal spending bill signed into law by President Joe Biden, the school announced.

The $1.7 trillion spending plan includes a total of $4.25 million specifically for new Kean projects, including a higher education program for middle and high school students and their families; a neighborhood revitalization project in Trenton; and expanded research facilities for life science and biotech startups housed at Kean.

The funding is the result of the efforts of U.S. Reps. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10th Dist.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12th Dist.) and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

More specifically, the school will receive:

  • $2.5 million: Aimed at renovating and expanding the research laboratories and incubator workspaces that are utilized by faculty and by the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit research organization located on Kean’s Union campus;
  • $1 million: To support the Kean Generation-2-Generation Parent University initiative, which aims to develop a higher education program and resource center for the parents, caregivers and family members of middle and high school students;
  • $750,000: For the Coalport Neighborhood Revitalization Planning initiative to support a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization project in Trenton’s East Ward using students from the Michael Graves College of Public Architecture and the Watson Institute for Urban Policy and Research.

Kean President Lamont Repollet obviously was thrilled to receive the funding:

“As the state’s urban research university, Kean is a leader in serving students from all backgrounds and conducting research that makes a difference in our communities,” he said. “We are grateful to federal lawmakers who recognize the contribution that Kean makes in New Jersey and beyond.

“This funding will strengthen New Jersey’s technology economy, open more opportunities for students and revitalize one of our state’s great cities.”

A closer look at the initiatives:

Renovation and expansion of research labs and incubator workspaces

Menendez said additional funding for the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit research organization located on Kean’s Union campus, will have great impact.

“The federal funding bill we passed at the end of last year contains significant wins and critical funding for New Jersey, including $181 million for community projects throughout the state that I secured,” he said. “I was proud to advocate on behalf of Kean University to deliver $2.5 million to expand their incubator workspaces and research laboratories to further establish New Jersey’s state universities as a leader in the STEM field, provide greater opportunities for our students and enhance partnerships with nonprofits and corporations in the life sciences industry.”

ILSE works with a range of early-stage biotech and pharma companies across the New York/New Jersey metro area.

“Strong federal support is essential to Kean’s growth as an anchor institution in this state,” Kellie LeDet, the university’s chief government affairs officer, said. “We are grateful that Sen. Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, recognizes how important this project will be to advancing our state’s economy.”

ILSE provides incubator space and accelerator services to life science companies and is also a science-driven research institute working in partnership with major academic, nonprofit and corporate organizations, and with entrepreneurs and regional institutions.

ILSE CEO Keith Bostian, who also serves as Kean’s associate provost for science and technology, applauded the award.

“ILSE helps STEM startups, including early-stage and academic spinout companies, establish themselves and advance scientific discovery,” he said. “This funding will support these entrepreneurs and Kean faculty as well as Kean students — many of whom are minorities or first-generation college students — who engage with ILSE companies every year through research collaborations and internships.”

The Kean Generation-2-Generation Parent University initiative

“I am proud to have secured this money to help Kean University’s G2G program and resource center,” Payne said. “I know this initiative will be a great benefit to the university and our entire community as it connects families to resources to help students succeed and transform their lives through higher education.”

The G2G initiative will involve three K-12 feeder programs and other programs that are part of the university’s Entrepreneurial Education Initiatives division, according to Sancha Gray, a senior vice president for EEI at Kean.

“Kean is committed to building a successful pathway to higher education for all children in New Jersey, and we know that family involvement is absolutely critical to that effort,” she said. “The Generation-2-Generation program is a holistic approach that allows us to connect the entire family with interventions and resources to help students and families succeed by disrupting the cycle of poverty for generations to come.”

The Coalport Neighborhood Revitalization Planning initiative

Coleman spoke of its potential impact.

“Systemic disinvestment in neighborhoods like Coalport harm us all, especially Black, brown and low-income communities,” she said. “The Coalport Neighborhood Revitalization Plan is a step toward reversing this destructive trend.

“As our state’s sole congressional appropriator, I take pride in delivering real change for New Jerseyans, especially for those who need it most. I’m honored to have secured this crucial investment for Coalport and to have played a role in Kean University’s efforts to lift up our communities.”

Joseph Youngblood II, Kean’s senior vice president for external affairs, said the project focuses on developing strategies for reversing the blight caused by redlining in the city’s Coalport neighborhood. Redlining, discriminatory business practices that deterred Black homeownership and reinforced housing segregation, has contributed to distressed cities in New Jersey for decades.

“The interdisciplinary team conducting this project is committed to involving the community in this important work, which we believe will be transformative not just for Trenton but also for other urban communities,” Youngblood said. “Creating equitable policies and practices is essential to moving our cities forward, and Kean has the expertise to bring many solutions to the table through this important work.”