Ashland University’s New Program to Center on Community Research and Evaluation Services

Ashland University’s New Program to Center on Community Research and Evaluation Services
Adam Garloch, an AU senior from Caledonia, Ohio, second from the left, talks with the staff at the Center on Community Research and Evaluation Services, including Nancy Udolph, at left; Dr. Allyson Drinkard, second from the right; and Dr. Michael Vimont, at right.

11/5/18 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University has kicked off a new program –- the Center for Community Research and Evaluation Services (CCRES) -- through the College of Arts and Sciences. The program was started in early October and just recently received a $5,000 grant from AU’s Fund to Support Innovative Initiatives.

“The Center for Community Research and Evaluation Services seeks to provide practical and high quality applied research and evaluation services to social service agencies, administrations and organizations with the aim to improve the well-being of residents in the surrounding communities and rural areas of Ashland, Wayne and Richland counties,” said Dr. Allyson Drinkard, assistant professor of criminal justice and sociology and co-director of the program.

Drinkard said the CCRES also will create and facilitate opportunities for students to engage in meaningful research that teaches them marketable job skills in applied research and evaluation. “This project is a collaboration between the Criminal Justice, Sociology and Social Work departments and will also be open to students pursuing majors and minors in psychology, education, nursing and students enrolled in the seminary,” she said.

“Agencies in rural areas tend to lack the resources, experience or expertise to conduct research and evaluation activities,” Drinkard said. “Often these entities do not know how to best target their limited resources to address community needs. Measuring these gaps is essential for programs like United Way, Family and Children First Councils, and Mental Health and Recovery Board to allocate funds where most needed.”

Drinkard noted that additionally, recipients of these funds struggle to show the effectiveness of interventions, often relying on satisfaction surveys to do this. “Even when local programs have the capacity to collect data, they have neither time to conduct analyses nor the expertise to dig deeper into the data to render more meaningful results,” she said.

Drinkard explained that while the new AU center will fill a tremendous need in the community, just as important is the fact that it will provide a hands-on approach to research and evaluation that has not been easily available or accessible to AU students.

“Our students will benefit by acquiring skills in high-demand for future employment,” she said. “University wide, students will have the opportunity to utilize the services provided by the CCRES for research conducted in the context of internships, field experiences, service-learning and experiential education.”

The Center received initial approvals from College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean Dr. Dawn Weber and AU Provost Dr. Eun-Woo Chang and initial financial support, including space for the center in the Kates Center building. Weber said this Innovative Initiatives grant will help fully launch the center and allow it to reach its potential.

The other co-director of the new program is Dr. Michael Vimont, associate professor of social work, while Nancy Udolph, associate professor of social work, will serve as the program’s community liaison.

Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2018, is a mid-sized, comprehensive private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Religiously affiliated with the Brethren Church, Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###

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