In its true form, a Contract Service Organization (CSO) is a business model in which "companies enter into a contract for goods and services provided by the organization". Usually companies choose to outsource certain tasks because they do not have the in-house expertise or to simply to minimize operational expenses. Community College run CSOs, for the purpose of creating authentic learning experiences, have been funded by NSF in the past beginning in 2004 with InnovaBio at Salt Lake City Community College (InnovaBio website). Since then, more community college biotechnology programs have explored the CSO model as a strategy to embed project-based learning competencies into their technical curriculum. As such, the NSF-funded Center of Excellence, Bio-Link, held a summit on April 18-20, 2012 at St. Louis Community College to discuss and document best practices for educationally based CSOs (see report). In the end, summit participates agreed that hands-on, authentic work experiences are crucial components to educating skilled bioscience technicians, and this project is based on those findings.
A community college run CSO is a relationship between industry and a college to conduct industry appropriate research and product development with the assistance of students and faculty. In essence, students have the opportunity to participate in authentic work experiences, and faculty gain valuable training in industry-related project management and STEM teaching, all while providing valuable products and services to regional bioeconomies.
This project will be implemented over the next few years. Please check back often as we gather information and build resources, including curriculum development and professional development for teachers.
The outcomes and deliverables for this goal is to:
- Establish infrastructure to support CSO development in Texas and Kentucky
- Create a report on how to deepen industry ties utilizing Bio-Link and state resources with CSOs
- Develop hybrid materials to educate both students and faculty about the economic and biotechnology needs of start-up companies
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