This blog series “Partnerships Across Campus” gives you — our partners, collaborators, and clients — an inside perspective on how the professional outreach staff within TU’s applied research and outreach centers work and collaborate with Towson University faculty.
I have been working for the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University in various capacities for the last fifteen years, and I have worked on a host of projects. For a few of these projects, we were able to include a faculty member on the team, but this was more the exception than the rule. The challenge we faced at RESI was matching our client’s needs with faculty research agendas and schedules, as many of these projects did not coincide with semester or summer breaks. So, it seemed that RESI was forever consigned to work with faculty only on the off chance that a client’s project and timing coincided with that of a faculty member. This did not seem to be a good way to become more integrated with the university.
In early 2011, while we at RESI were bemoaning the lack of faculty participation, Dr. Ray Lorion was wondering how he was going to fulfill the terms and conditions of a $4.7 million four-year grant awarded to the university as a result of the Maryland State Department of Education’s (MSDE) Race to the Top grant award. Moreover, immediately upon award, MSDE was demanding project schedules and budgets for evaluation plans of proposed programs that had yet to be implemented by MSDE. In addition to being a Dean of one of the larger colleges at Towson University, Dr. Lorion was tasked with writing project plans, preparing budgets, and meeting with various stakeholders for projects that had yet to start.
Through a series of conversations, both Dr. Lorion and I realized that this grant was a perfect opportunity for RESI and the College of Education to collaborate. RESI could devote its project management, technical, and analytical skills to develop the project plans, budgets evaluation processes, and analyses to address the needs of the project. The College of Education would bring in its subject matter experts in education as well as a leadership team to the project. From this, the Center for Application and Innovation Research in Education (CAIRE) at Towson University was firmly established.
RESI’s contribution to CAIRE is now deep and broad. Their expertise in the management of large projects has been an essential component of CAIRE’s becoming organized and able to recruit, train, and monitor what are now nearly 40 individual applied scientists. Our work involves qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods evaluation designs. In each of these investigatory modalities, RESI adds expertise and coordination. Through experience with RESI, I have come to appreciate its capabilities in the design, administration, and analysis of large-scale surveys and its capacity to mine large data sets to answer highly focused questions. Its experts can “mine” as well as drill into the data to answer very specific questions from a retrospective as well as prospective perspective.