Shoals Shift program becomes finalist for innovation award

News Editor Kaitlyn Davis

The Business Department’s Shoals Shift program beat dozens of universities to become a finalist for the University Economic Development Association’s 2016 Awards of Excellence Aug. 18.

UNA will compete against other finalists Oct. 17 for the Awards of Excellence, and UEDA will announce the winner Oct. 18, said Executive-in-Residence at the College of Business Janyce Fadden, who helps lead Shoals Shift.

Shoals Shift is an effort to create more job opportunities in technology in the Shoals area for UNA students, as well as build local businesses and business leaders, Fadden said.

The Shoals Shift program became a finalist in the competition for its effort to make the Shoals community more technologically friendly, Fadden said.

It is the first time UNA competed in the competition, Fadden said.

“Usually in the application process, (UEDA) tell(s) you, ‘First time submitters rarely get selected,’” Fadden said. “We got selected.”

UEDA is an organization that promotes the development of economic prosperity in communities, Fadden said.

The Awards of Excellence is a competition between members of UEDA that recognizes outstanding, leading-edge higher education projects and initiatives promoting economic development and engagement, according to UEDA’s website.

Shoals Shift is trying to change the Shoals area with over 25 initiatives, but the competition limited the projects they could submit, Fadden said.

Shoals Shift is a finalist in the Innovation and Talent section of the competition. Examples of projects in this category are, business entrepreneurs, idea or product makers, entrepreneurship education projects/initiatives and initiatives to connect students with entrepreneurs, according the UEDA’s website.

The projects Shoals Shift submitted were the Three Day Startup, a weekend business startup event, Shoals Big Idea Contest, a competition open to the community as well as students in which competitors present ideas on how to advance the digital technology industry in the Shoals area and an Innovation and Engineering Class, Fadden said.

The Business Department is excited the Shoals Shift program is a finalist in the competition, said Dean of the College of Business Gregory Carnes in a press release.

“We pride ourselves on offering our students the full experience (of college), and being named a UEDA finalist is just another example of that,” he said. “We know that our students will compete well, but it’s also important for them to see the impact they can have on their community or region, even as students.”

Many students want to stay in the Shoals area but the job market will not allow them to, and the Shoals Shift program is trying to change that, Fadden said.

“The intended result (of Shoals Shift) is that students at the University of North Alabama will have more options for their future and that the community has an opportunity to pitch themselves as a ‘tech town’ destination for the students and others who may desire to stay or relocate to the area,” she said.

Junior Taylor Mathews said she is happy to hear UNA is trying to make the Shoals area more technology based.

“As a computer science major, that’s something I think we could all benefit from,” Mathews said. “UNA’s growing, computer science is growing, and all of those fields are only going to grow. So, I think yeah, we should definitely move in that direction.”