Greetings, colleagues! For 2006-2007, the Center for Social Research is moving to a new project management footing, of which this brand new weblog is a part. We are working to place new emphasis on our primary mission: helping Calvin faculty improve our academic research in the social sciences. CSR’s support for community service organizations, the Christian Reformed Church, and Calvin administrative departments will not end, but we are working hard to emphasize faculty research as the organizing principle for these other CSR functions, which are after all part of our entire institution’s mission, not CSR’s alone. This note is primarily about the ongoing expansion of our high-tech research-support infrastructure. Read on to see a few of the steps we are taking…
In January 2006, Calvin computer science major Mark Van Holstyn, then a junior, along with CSR Assistant Director Neil Carlson, completed the initial stage of design and deployment of a new web-based database application and research tool for Cherry Street Health Services, a non-profit health system with nine clinics serving low-income children and families in the Grand Rapids area. The web application streamlines Cherry Street’s service to help patients apply for low-cost or free medications from pharmaceutical companies. The program has been running well for over eight months now, with minimal need for training or support. CSR’s work greatly improved accessibility from remote sites, reliability and data quality, including a centrally managed drug formulary, list of physicians and strong user security. The new system also tracks health outcomes so as to facilitate research and program evaluation in the future. CSR was connected to this project through Dr. Fred DeJong, who is completing a contract for evaluation of Cherry Street’s role as lead agency in a major federal grant for Grand Rapids area health care.
In May 2006, the Center launched a new and improved survey of recent Calvin alumni to improve assessment of Calvin departments and academic programs. The survey data was collected entirely through the Internet, reducing costs and facilitating the consolidation of custom materials from twelve academic departments and several campus administrative offices. Over 2,000 alumni from the 2002 and 2005 graduating classes and their cohorts were contacted by email and postcard; by late July, 663 alumni had responded (a respectable response rate for Internet-only collection). Two alumni won vouchers for free air travel. As this approach is replicated in coming years, it will enable better analytical comparisons, reduce the load on departments to conduct their own surveys AND reduce the demand on alumni, who might previously have received two or more surveys from Calvin in place of this one. Reports will be distributed to departments in September, with coordination by lead client Jim Bradley, Calvin’s Director of Assessment and Institutional Research.
The Center extends its congratulations to our May 2006 graduates. Carolyn Yu has worked at CSR for three years and has contributed to data entry and logistical management; a political science major, she was also a fellow of the Henry Institute in 2005-2006. She has an internship with Chase Manhattan Bank in her future. Michael Sullivan, a psychology major, finished Calvin’s program in just three years and has received significant scholarship aid to study law at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; he currently plans to specialize in intellectual property. During his two years at CSR, Michael has programmed dozens of surveys in Inquisite, managed major mailings, and provided the CSR workroom with a fantastic supply of snacks. He also produced a much visited reanalysis of law schools placement records. We will miss you both!