Dr. Edward L. Mienie, the first associate vice president for economic development and community engagement at the University of North Georgia (UNG), is working to strengthen the university's relationships across the region and establish new partnerships.
"My vision is to promote the economic development of the region through engaging the communities the university serves," Mienie said. "Through strategic partnerships and collaboration, I hope to coordinate our regional economic development agenda in a way that defines and implements initiatives, such as the Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Initiative, consistent with regional needs and UNG's strengths."
Started in 2013 by UNG President Bonita Jacobs as part of the university's Complete College Georgia plan, REED aims to build collaborations and share successful community practices to increase educational attainment across the northeast Georgia region and strengthen the region's economy.
"The REED Initiative establishes a forum for partnering with the community to help promote an educated workforce, collaborate to promote continuing and professional education, and grow UNG’s influence as a premier university to serve the educational and workforce needs of its community," Mienie said. "UNG has a critical role to play in enhancing our communities’ educational attainment and workforce readiness."
The Office of Economic Development and Community Engagement will serve as the university's central point of contact for the community regarding the economic development of the region, Mienie said.
"We will be diligently working on the development of a web page that will feature university resources that support economic development efforts to enhance the local economy," he said. "This will help strengthen communication between UNG and the community as the university strives to be a vibrant economic partner to the region."
Since starting his position earlier this spring, Mienie has established an internal economic development steering committee with representatives from across the university who will help create an action plan that aligns with the strategic goals of both UNG and the University System of Georgia (USG), and the state's economic development initiatives. UNG also plans to create external leadership councils involving community members, with two already organized.
"We have established vibrant community leadership councils at our Oconee and Cumming campuses under the leadership of our campus CEOs, and plan to establish one at our Gainesville Campus, and soon on our new Blue Ridge Campus," he said. "These leadership councils consist of community leaders such as legislators, members of the business community, civic organizations, local government representatives, government agencies, school administrators, and others."
Mienie also works with the USG, lawmakers, and various government agencies and policy makers to ensure policy and funding initiatives reflect the needs of the university, while enhancing the UNG's regional engagement efforts and contributions to economic development.
Mienie has more than 15 years of experience working in international relations and business, media relations and coalition building. He previously served as chief of staff and personal aid to the secretary of state and deputy ambassador to Switzerland in his native country of South Africa, which included 36 months of diplomatic training. Mienie also worked in enterprise risk management at the Coca-Cola Co. as part of a PhD-awarded internship, and trained in the South African Infantry as a section leader, serving in combat in the Angolan war.
Mienie earned a bachelor's degree in law from the University of South Africa and received his doctorate in international conflict management while teaching and leading the academic exchange program with South Africa at Kennesaw State University. He speaks English, Afrikaans, German, and is functional in Dutch and Flemish.