CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Building community partnerships one-by-one created a domino effect, which has led to continuous opportunities for Dr. James “Jim” Needham, Dean of Community Outreach, who is retiring after 20 years of community engagement at the Island University. A retirement reception was held for Needham on June 9.
Needham, who has a long history of creating unique programs that benefit Corpus Christi and the surrounding areas, has worked at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi since 1994. Serving as a liaison between the Island University and the Coastal Bend community, he has worked closely with a specialized staff on organization development, strategic planning, professional development, workforce training and continuing education.
“I’m honored to have launched a number of new outreach programs during my time on campus,” said Needham. “The common thread here, for me, was being engaged with the public, which led to many new and exciting opportunities. Serving on numerous councils, committees, and participating in other community activities opened many doors for me.”
Needham started his University career as a Regional Representative and Coordinator of Programs for the Office of Community Outreach, where he coordinated training for the Texas Engineering Extensions Service, research for the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, and was a Liaison for the Corpus Christi Army Depot. This role allowed Needham to excel in custom technical training programs, consulting services, and assisting small businesses with pollution prevention. Not only did he provide many services to the community, but he also started several programs that still continue to be funded today.
In 1995, Needham received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to start the Pollution Prevention Partnership, which focuses on assisting small businesses with environmental compliance. He later started the “Exploring Wetlands and Waterways Program,” which was funded by a grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1999. The project focuses on providing outdoor education programming for science classes through kayaking and boating excursions. In 2008, Needham secured additional funding that allowed the program to grow from 13 kayaks to more than 30 and expand the project to teens and adults. He has led Community Outreach in securing nearly $3.5 million in major grants and contracts with the Island University.
“Dr. Needham has ably led a highly-awarded team, which has supported a number of programs and revenue geared toward education, youth, and workforce development in our community,” said Dr. Luis Cifuentes, Vice President of Research, Commercialization and Outreach. “His enthusiasm and energy for outreach will leave a mark on our University as will the many partnerships he helped create to meet the needs of our community.”
Needham has also worked with Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries to create environmentally friendly solutions for local marinas and harbors. He successfully secured grants to build six oil waste stations for the Port Aransas Marina, City of Corpus Christi Marina, Rockport Fulton Harbor, and Conn Brown Harbor in Aransas Pass. He was also instrumental in establishing opportunities for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Del Mar College students to partner with local small businesses. This project, in collaboration with the City of Corpus Christi’s Type A board, provides students with internship opportunities while fostering small local business.
Most recently, Needham worked with the Corpus Christi Army Depot on the Operations and Project Management Certification program. For this project, which was completed on June 30, 2014, he created a training program that gives employees the tools they need to excel in new management positions.
Under Needham’s leadership, the Office of Community Outreach has received many awards and recognitions for starting many successful programs. Recent awards include; the Texas Environmental Excellence Award in 2010; the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation Stewardship Award in 2005 and 2007; the United States Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award for Partnerships and Youth/Education in 2004; and the Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Prevention & Response Act Award in 2003.