The following article is from an archived newsletter. See our Shared Waters newsletter.

Higher Education Consortium Aims to Strengthen Binational Partnerships

Ben Taylor
University of Illinois System
Jisu Hong
University of Illinois System
u of wisconsin madison

The Great Lakes Higher Education Consortium continues to grow since its launch in the fall of 2020.

The consortium began with the University of Illinois System, University of Toronto and Council of the Great Lakes Region as cofounders. The aim is to build cross-border partnerships that develop the future workforce while addressing the region’s talent gaps in Canada and the United States.

“The consortium will provide a unique platform for higher education institutions to connect across borders to tackle a range of regionally significant socioeconomic and environmental issues and advance a shared commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion,” said Jay Walsh, vice president for economic development and innovation at the University of Illinois System and co-chair of the consortium’s executive committee.

“We aim to elevate the status of the Great Lakes mega-region as the place to learn and work, the place to start a business and the place to innovate by leveraging the assets in the region.”

Further, the consortium looks to position the region as a global hub of research and innovation through inclusive approaches, and support entrepreneurship in a way that connects business partners with incubators and accelerators to foster enterprise development.

great lakes higher education consortium logo

This year, the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, McGill University and Queens University have joined the consortium with the goal of building a network of world-class teaching and research experts that will help drive the region forward.

In the near term, the consortium will develop a strategic plan based on key global trends and existing research collaborations that includes the mega-region’s innovation assets, and entrepreneurship and workforce development programs.

Consortium members will work together to tackle key issues like the future of mobility, protecting our water supply and adapting crop production strategies amid a changing climate. These programs could include partnerships with government entities, training workers in new careers for the future economy or helping launch new businesses.

“Together, we're building a new era of cross-border higher education partnerships that will position this region as a leader in talent development, science and the new innovations and businesses that will ensure the Great Lakes can compete and win in the rapidly changing North American and global marketplace.” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region, with offices in Ontario and Ohio.

The consortium, supported by funding from the United States Mission in Canada, also will publish a call for proposals later this year to address legacy and emerging water-quality and -use risks in the Great Lakes watershed and broader region.

The focus of the upcoming project will be on binational projects in Canada and the United States that embrace collaborative research and talent development, the creation of novel approaches or technology to protect and conserve water, and the transformation of innovative water solutions.

For more information on the consortium, contact Fisher at

Ben Taylor
University of Illinois System

Ben Taylor is an associate director of economic development and innovation at the University of Illinois System. In his role, Taylor seeks out and supports partnerships at the state, national and global levels that further the system’s economic development mission.

Jisu Hong
University of Illinois System

Jisu Hong is an associate vice president of economic development at the University of Illinois System.

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