Center collaborates with local companies

IUS Horizon

The Applied Research and Education Center is working to provide research for local organizations.

AREC was formed 12 years ago as an organization for the IUS campus to provide assistance in analyzing trends with companies in the community. Currently, the AREC is involved with multiple projects in the Southern Indiana and Kentucky area.

“A lot of our services are things that can be provided through private consulting firms but at a much higher cost,” Melissa Fry, assistant professor of sociology and director of AREC, said. “We are a good opportunity for people to get research that they need done but at a much lower cost, and, for non-profit organizations, that is a really important factor. We make it possible for them to do things they otherwise couldn’t do.”

The target market for the center is the IUS service region, which includes nine counties in Indiana and five in Kentucky.

The center does work with organizations in generating surveys and evaluations that assess the needs of companies. The center’s work also deals with data entry, management, analysis and writing reports for clients.

“A lot of our work has been evaluation work for non-profit organizations and needs assessments are also really common for us to do,” Fry said.

The center works on multiple projects throughout the year, depending on time schedules that are tied with each project.

“Right now, we are estimating six to eight projects a year,” Fry said. “It varies on the size of the project.”

The projects the center deals with have different timelines depending on the needs of the client.

Some projects have quick turnarounds within days, while others will be working for months at a time.

The center also employs four to six students. The students are required to put in 10 hours of work at the AREC, which is located in the Hausfeldt Building.

Carolyn Coburn, IUS graduate, continues to work with the center post-graduation.

Coburn initially got involved with the center in 2006, but, at the time, AREC was fully staffed. She became an employee in fall 2010.

Coburn said the work she has done in the center has helped her for future perspective jobs.

“Coming out of school, people want you to have a year or two experience doing [research work],” Coburn said.

Coburn said an advantage at working in the center is that it is not a major-specific center — students of multiple disciplines bring their expertise to the group.

“The thing about working here is that you don’t have to be a sociology major,” Coburn said. “You can use whatever you have for the discipline you are in because the work here is diversified, so you learn other skills.”

The center plans to work more directly in the upcoming years on advertising and letting the community and university know about the services that are provided through AREC.

“In the next couple of years, we are going to work more on getting attention to the work that we are doing so that there is more of a public knowledge of what we are doing,” Fry said.

Malorie Coleman, psychology senior and employee of AREC, said she did not know about the work that was done in the center until less than a year ago.

“I wish I would have known about [AREC] a lot sooner,” Coleman said.  “I would have been here when I was a sophomore.”

While the university does fund some of the center’s expenses, AREC is a fee-for-service organization. The center also does pro-bono work for other organizations in the area.

“We don’t so much make money off what we do, but, rather, make a cushion for when we have fewer projects,” Fry said.

Most of the cliental are generated through word of mouth from IUS faculty or people who work in the center.

“Faculty have done a great job of getting the word out of what we do, but there has probably been less collaboration on projects,” Fry said.

With summer break approaching campus, AREC has no plans of slowing down with their projects.

“We are in action 12 months during the year,” Fry said.

The center is currently working on multiple projects. Most recently, they worked with the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending in passing a rate cap on payday loans. The center was responsible for generating a fact sheet and analyzing surveys. The fact sheet was also delivered to the Kentucky House of Representatives Banking and Insurance Committee.

While Fry works as an adviser to the employees of the center, the majority of the work is student generated.

The work the students are doing is directly connected to local organizations and the community.

“A big advantage is getting to know your community, and you learn so much about what actually goes on in the community,” Coburn said.