American colleges and universities spent an estimated $9.2 billion on applied research in 2004—nearly four time less than the $31.7 billion they spent on basic research. The long-held belief is that applied research, which uses science and technology to address practical problems in the real world, is the primary responsibility of industry; while basic research, which expands human knowledge but has no immediate applicability, is the milieu of higher education. The numbers bear this out: Industry performed nearly 62 percent of all applied research in 2004, while colleges and universities performed more than 54 percent of all basic research.
Despite these statistics, more regional comprehensive colleges and universities are recognizing the benefits of applied research not only as a means for generating solutions to practical problems, but also as a way to further their missions, serve their communities and conduct ground-breaking research. “People don’t realize that universities are here to provide a service not just to students,” said Kathleen Gruben, marketing professor and director of the Center for Retail Studies at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. “There is so much more that goes into university work. We’re very committed to giving back to the community.”
“People don’t realize that universities are here to provide a service not just to students,” said Kathleen Gruben, marketing professor and director of the Center for Retail Studies at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. “There is so much more that goes into university work. We’re very committed to giving back to the community.”
As part of this, Gruben developed Georgia’s first retail index (and only the second in the nation, after Florida) to measure trends in the state’s retail industry. “There’s a national retail index, but what’s happening in New York and Los Angeles doesn’t really mean anything to our local businesses,” said Gruben. So with the assistance of two graduate students and about 17 undergraduates, Gruben gathers data from retailers through phone interviews and surveys and compiles the information into a quarterly report that’s distributed to retailers, legislators and other interested groups.
“So many small retailers operate by the seat of their pants,” said Gruben, herself a former retail store owner. “They’re too busy putting out fires to gather information. This is something that gives them a feel for what’s going on in the industry.” The research also has helped policymakers gain a better understanding of how legislation affects retailers. When legislators combined two tax holidays into one day, they thought they were doing retailers a favor because it would simplify bookkeeping. Gruben’s research showed otherwise: retailers found that shoppers didn’t spend as much money when the two tax holidays were combined.
Colleges and universities also can help local business and industry by doing the applied research for them. That's the goal of the University of Southern Indiana's new Center for Applied Research and Economic Development (CARED). The Evansville-based university opened the center in January to bring its applied research expertise to local businesses and community organizations. "We don't have an abundance of research resources in this area," said Center Director Susan Ellspermann. "So far the business community has been absolutely, unequivocally positive about what we're doing. They're thrilled that we're offering these services in their own backyard and engaging with the community in a way that we haven't before."
For example, Downtown Evansville, Inc., a non-profit development organization, recently contracted with CARED to conduct community surveys about traffic flow and day-care needs. According to Mick Conati, executive director of the organization, the involvement of the University of Southern Indiana was critical to the projects' success. "I don't think the data would have been as accurate if we had done it ourselves," he said. "And the fact that the surveys are done by the university validates them. It makes a tremendous difference in how the research is received."
By BETTY VAWTER
Southern Indiana Senior Editor 853-6590 or
Through the University of Southern Indiana's new Center for Applied Research and Economic Development (CARED), faculty and students in the College of Business are engaging in research, consulting, and other projects to help grow the southwestern Indiana region. Two of the first projects are in Dubois and Spencer counties.
In Dubois County, an individual seeking to locate a business in the area can access up-to-date regional economic data online thanks to a joint project of CARED, the College of Business, and the Dubois County Area Development Corporation.
And in Spencer County, Tom Utter, executive director of the Lincolnland Economic Development Corporation in Rockport, believes no adjective is good enough to describe an entrepreneur's idea for an agri-tourism business. The College of Business, in cooperation with CARED, is providing expertise to help the developer make decisions about the potential business and interest investors.
Utter said his organization in Spencer County began cooperating with the state administration in its efforts to find innovative entrepreneurial agricultural economic development opportunities. Out of the county's local action committee meeting came an idea from Alan Meunier, who proposed an agri-tourism business that could offer such features as experimental crop demonstrations, a petting zoo, shopping for unique gifts on a working farm, and farm-fresh produce from regional growers. Meunier and his wife own Quality Craft Construction, Inc. in Dale, Indiana.
Dr. Beth Mott-Stenerson, assistant professor of marketing, has conducted research to help determine the better of two proposed locations and the appropriate markets for advertising. She also has prepared a communication piece to help potential investors visualize the project. She traveled to Spencer County to visit the proposed sites and talk with Meunier.
Dr. Sue Ellspermann, founding director of the Center for Applied Research and Economic Development, has been listening to the center's constituency, meeting with business and community leaders from the nine southwestern Indiana counties who have formed a Regional Advisory Committee.
Ellspermann owned and operated an independent consulting firm in Evansville for 20 years before joining USI in January. During the first quarter, CARED generated 30 potential projects. The center is an outreach of USI Extended Services with a mission to mobilize the resources of the University to serve community organizations and business in southwestern Indiana. The center conducts high-impact applied research, consulting, and student engagement. CARED is partially funded by a Small Business Administration grant.
Ellspermann said, "CARED can be successful to the extent our faculty and students choose to participate. The College of Business dean, chairs, and faculty have been exemplary in supporting and completing these early projects. Though most projects can be funded by the client or through a grant, some cannot. As is USI's tradition, thus far, we have figured out how to serve most clients even when the funding was not available.
Other colleges of the University also are involved with CARED projects. For more information about the center, call 812-461-5407.
April 4, 2006
What happens when you load university faculty members and administrators on a bus and visit prominent area businesses? Faculty say, "wow!" and the learning soars. The event is called "Day on the Bus" and it orients faculty and doctoral graduates, who have arrived in Evansville to teach at local higher education institutions, to local businesses. The faculty members often are not familiar with the products, business models, technology, and challenges of the local businesses who will eventually hire their students. Wayne Henning, recently-retired executive vice president and chief operating officer of Old National Bank, offered to chair the first "Day on the Bus" committee. Twenty faculty and administrators from Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, University of Evansville (UE), and University of Southern Indiana (USI), visited Vectren, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, St. Mary's Hospital, and Old National Bank. Each business provided an executive overview of their organization, key challenges they face, and a tour of their facility to "Day on the Bus" participants. On a motor coach sponsored by Old National Bank, faculty members networked between sites. They shared their rich insights and identified research opportunities, possible projects, ideas to use in the classroom, and other possible collaborations during the day and at an Old National Bank reception at the end of the day.
Rich Ruhala, assistant professor of engineering at USI who moved to the area five years ago with his wife, Laura, also an engineering faculty member at USI, noted that the "Day on the Bus" was an outstanding way to see and hear from some of the top employers in the area. He said, "I gained a considerable amount of insight and knowledge for one day. In addition, it was great to interact with professionals at other colleges and businesses." Greg Rawski, assistant professor of management in his first year at UE, liked seeing the diversity of offerings in Evansville and better knowing how to prepare students for the future. He said, "These companies are all competing in a dynamic, global environment. Whether it be industries of energy, automotive, health care, or banking, preparing our students to meet these global challenges should continue to be a major theme in our business curriculum."
"The bus tour assisted in breaking down barriers between faculty, colleges and universities and with industry," said Kevin Valadares, assistant professor of health services/administration at USI. He added, "A few ideas hit me that would have never occurred within the confines of my office, such as 'can a health administration graduate function within the manufacturing world? Answer: Yes...by tangibly helping to lower the costs of health care while raising the quality of care afforded to employees."
Mary Dentino of Ivy Tech Community College said, "It was enlightening to view four different Evansville corporations within the context of a single day, and it was impressive to see the efficiency with which they operate and the leadership exhibited by their representatives. The collaborative discussion that existed during the day will allow me to do my job with a better sense of what community leaders are seeking in college graduates."
"Day on the Bus" is slated to become an annual field trip for new faculty members in August as they prepare to teach their first classes. The program's goal is to increase faculty and student interaction with regional businesses providing aligned curriculum and research activity, higher quality graduates, and less "brain drain." Sue Ellspermann, director of the Center for Applied Research and Economic Development at USI, will coordinate this event in 2006. "Day on the Bus" is a project of a new business-university collaboration named Oroborus. Oroborus is the brainchild of David Winenger, Global Director of Capital Planning with Whirlpool, and Matt Meadors, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Evansville Chamber of Commerce. Oroborus is a mythical symbolic of a circular, continuous process of change. The Oroborus Committee, still in its infancy, includes several large regional businesses, USI, UE, Ivy Tech and Purdue. The Committee convened in June 2005 to consider "How might we increase collaboration business to business, business to university, and university to university?" Over 75 unique opportunities were brainstormed. Several of these are now being pursued.
To learn more about Oroborus, to participate or to sponsor "Day on the Bus" Summer 2006, contact Ellspermann at email@example.com.
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