University Center Gets a Leader - June 6, 2006

The Medina Gazette

By Katie Khoury, Staff Writer

June 6, 2006

LAFAYETTE TWP. - On June 1, Sue Louscher officially took office as the first director of the University of Akron’s Medina County University Center and Technology Park.

James Doutt, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., was on the search committee and said he was impressed with the quality of the résumés received.

“We wanted someone who had experience in a number of areas,” he said, such as post-secondary education, and the ability to handle public relations and marketing for the university center.

Louscher, 38, has both, with nearly 15 years of marketing and business development, most recently at SpaceDev Inc., near Washington, D.C., and High Tech Brokers International in Arlington, Va.

For the past seven years, she was the assistant director for continuing studies and community development/assistant director for workforce development at Kent State University’s Tuscarawas campus.

“The experience has allowed me to gain an understanding of work force development needs from the perspectives of both the university provider and the business community,” Louscher said. “I have also gained insight into sustaining and growing the partnership between a community and off-campus unit of a major university.”

Louscher currently resides in Uniontown with her husband, David, the chair of the political science department at the University of Akron, and David’s 5-year-old granddaughter.

She said since she was named the university center’s director, she’s been on an “information-gathering mission,” trying to learn what’s been done with the project to date.

She has several short-term plans for the university center, including initiating the construction of the facility, setting up a Web site that will allow community members to better understand the university center’s vision and mission, opening a temporary office in Medina, launching a polymer certification program and working with the various curriculum committees to define the initial programming that will be offered at the university center.

As for opening a temporary office in Medina, Louscher said, “It is important for me to become engaged in the community on a professional and personal level.” She also wants the university center to have a “physical presence even before the facility is completed.”

George Paidas, chairman of the Medina County University Center task force, said Louscher “showed sincerity in her desire to want this thing (the university center) to succeed.” In addition, he said she’s “looking to move to Medina County,” which shows she’s willing to “submerge herself” in the project.

Also, Louscher said she wants to implement a customized contract-training program, wherein the university center would work with companies in Medina County to design a plan tailored to the company’s needs. It would be a chance for these companies’ employees to take a course to advance their skill level.

Louscher said she hopes to have the program “up and running” in the near future, before the university center opens.

As far as long-term plans are concerned, she related that she wants the university center to “provide local educational opportunities to the people of Medina County” and “act as an accelerant for the economic development of Medina County and Northeast Ohio.”

During the next year, Louscher said one of the biggest challenges she faces is juggling her time between Akron and Medina. She also wants to “define and refine an achievable implementation strategy” and “remain very deliberately focused on that strategy.”

It’s exciting to help create a program that has such high expectations, she related.

“I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an environment that’s so supportive,” Louscher said, both at the University of Akron and in the Medina County community. “The people want the program to be successful.”

Holly Harris Bane, director of strategic initiatives at the University of Akron, said the university center project “resides at the highest level.”

“If Sue doesn’t have this kind of support, (the project) won’t be successful,” she said, and added she’s never seen this level of engagement and commitment.

The University of Akron is in charge of the university center’s construction on state Route 162. The building will be three stories and 30,000 square feet. It will be made of the same red-brown brick, stone and glass that comprise recently added buildings on the University of Akron’s main campus. The completed facility is expected to be open for classes in fall 2007.

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