In Valparaiso University’s Community Research and Service Center (CRSC), undergraduate students not only learn basic research methods, but also gain practical experience in working for and dealing with government, business, and other organizations in Northwest Indiana. As a means to achieve these goals, the CRSC forges partnerships with various community organizations from Northwest Indiana. More than 75 projects have been completed for more than 50 different organizations, and more than 400 students have been involved in these projects.
Students can become involved in the CRSC in a variety of ways. Many of the projects are done as part of community-based learning built into courses. There also are paid research associate positions available, as well as unpaid and paid internships. research associates work part time during the school year, and we also have full-time, 10-week positions in the summer. The responsibilities of a research associate include helping with designing studies, preparing questionnaires, developing and drawing samples, conducting surveys, coding and analyzing data, writing reports, and presenting the results of the research. research associates have come from disciplines as varied as sociology, political science, education, engineering, and communication. Internships are often project specific, single-semester activities undertaken for credit. Internship opportunities have included projects such as community mapping, neighborhood association development, community organizing, and studies of bias incidents in the region. Departments represented through internships include geography, education, German, English, communication, sociology, political science, business, economics, and others.
Following is a list of projects that the CRSC has worked on this year:
1. Porter County Drug and Alcohol Report. 2010-2011. This is our part of the Strategic Planning Framework – Strategic Initiative grant put together by the Porter County United Way and the Porter County Community Foundation. It is available on the United Way’s web page.
2. Funders Study. 2010. A study for the community foundations of Porter, Lake, and LaPorte Counties focusing on the effect of the recession on the operation of organizations across the region funded by these foundations. The data is used to assess and alter the funding strategies of these organizations.
3. Safe Harbor Report. 2010. This is our fifth year of involvement with the Michigan City Schools on this project. We provide quarterly and summer reports evaluating all the after school programs in Michigan City.
4. Youth Bereavement Study. 2010. This is a study done for the Visiting Nursing Association (VNA) to determine the need for a youth bereavement center in Porter County. The data helped move the project forward and the bereavement center is already operating.
5. Quality of Life Study for the City of Valparaiso. 2010. This is our third quality of life study for the City of Valparaiso. This year’s was a survey of 2,700 households in the city that asked residents to evaluate city services and other conditions. The results were presented formally to the City Council and the report is available on the city’s web page.
6. Strategic Plan Survey for Valparaiso Community Schools. 2010. The school board did a series of focus groups to determine school district concerns, and we then did a survey of a sample of 3,000 households in the school district to determine the extent that the concerns uncovered in the focus groups were shared by the rest of the community. The data here was used to develop the school system’s strategic plan. The report is available on the Valparaiso Community School’s web page.
7. Hobart to Chicago Bus Study. 2010. A study for the City of Hobart to test the feasibility of cooperating with the Valpo to Chicago bus and create either a stop in Hobart or a separate bus that would take residents to Chicago daily. This was also tied into similar studies that we have done for other places such as Valparaiso, Schneider, Cedar Lake, Highland, Crown Point, Lowell, Munster, and Winfield. These all were done as part of our partnership with the Regional Bus Authority (RBA).
8. Crusader Connection. 2010. For the Valparaiso University Career Center and as a part of their grant, we surveyed Valpo alumni about their experiences with internships.
9. RDA Study. 2010. A study with the Times Media Company on attitudes towards regionalism and the Regional Development Authority. This was a survey of 3,500 households in Porter County. The results appeared in the Times on Nov. 14.
10. Ethics Study for City of Valparaiso. 2010. A questionnaire was designed on ethics for the City of Valparaiso to use to examine the commitment to ethical principles by employees of the city.
11. Administrator’s Survey for Department of Education. 2010. We are cooperating with the Valpo education department on a survey of principals who have had our students teach with them.
12. Porter County Women’s Study. 2010. This is the second in a series of studies for the Porter County Community Foundation on the conditions of women in Porter County.
13. Bias Motivated Incident Study. 2010. This is an ongoing project that tracks bias motivated incidents in Northwest Indiana. The results are available on the CRSC web page.
According to the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, Valparaiso University's Community Research and Service Center is a model for how a small private college can combine human assets (faculty and students) with private funding to have an impact on its community.