Associate Vice President of Engagement and Innovation Partnerships, Northern Illinois University
Rena Cotsones, Ph.D., is Associate Vice President of Engagement and Innovation Partnerships for Northern Illinois University. She works with NIU and regional business, community and government leaders to create and implement collaborative approaches to advancing economic development and improve educational attainment in the region.
Most recently, Dr. Cotsones worked with higher education, economic development and workforce leaders in Rockford, Illinois to create the Rockford Area Aerospace Accelerator Project in support of the region’s aerospace cluster. The project was awarded a federal Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (JIAC) grant to strengthen the community’s engineering workforce pipeline, increase innovation, raise the visibility of the aerospace cluster and encourage entrepreneurship. This project was one of three cited when NIU won the inaugural Economic Prosperity University “Place” Award from the Association of Public and Landgrant Universities (APLU) in 2013. One of the outcomes of the regional collabotative work in support of the aerospace cluster, the Joint Institute for Engineering and Technology – Aerospace (JiET-A), was recognized with the 2014 Award of Excellence for Talent Development by the University Economic Development Association (UEDA).
Dr. Cotsones is a member of the Executive Committees for the Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity (CICEP) and the Council on Engagement and Outreach (CEO) of APLU. She is a team leader for the Alliance for Regional Development, a tri-state initiative pursuing collaborative approaches to workforce development, innovation, green growth, and transportation planning for Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. In northern Illinois, Dr. Cotsones is a board member of numerous Chambers, economic development and education organizations.