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APSU teams with United Way to care for community

October 21, 2003


Austin Peay employees have long supported United Way through the annual TBR Charitable Campaign. In fact, Dr. Timothy Sweet-Holp, director of grants and sponsored programs, describes Austin Peay as an active partner in helping United Way and its agencies make Clarksville-Montgomery County a better place to work and live.
October 21, 2003


Austin Peay employees have long supported United Way through the annual TBR Charitable Campaign. In fact, Dr. Timothy Sweet-Holp, director of grants and sponsored programs, describes Austin Peay as an “active partner” in helping United Way and its agencies make Clarksville-Montgomery County a better place to work and live.

Last summer, the United Way asked Sweet-Holp, Dr. Carmen Reagan, professor of marketing, Dr. Anne Black, associate professor of health and human performance, and Dr. Uma Iyer, assistant professor of psychology, to act as the principal investigators in a study of the community's unmet human needs.

The four professors are putting the finishing touches on a community survey that will be used to discover these needs. APSU students will conduct the surveys by calling a random sample of Montgomery County residents between Oct. 27 and Nov. 13.

Reagan says, “This is the second time that APSU has partnered with United Way in a community-wide assessment. Five years ago several individuals helped with the analysis of the data after it was collected. This time, the involvement is much more extensive in terms of process, as well as the number of APSU faculty involved and the involvement of students.

“Involving the students will not only provide an opportunity for them to practice the research methods they are learning, but it also should help them understand the importance of community service.”

Dr. Ellen Kanervo, professor of communication, has made administering the surveys a requirement for students in her research methods class. “I think the best way to teach behavioral research methods is to engage students in behavioral research,” she says. “Since a major focus for the class is survey research, my methods students have conducted a survey every year for the last 25 years. Most of the surveys have been on-campus and have dealt with topics of student interest—over-the-counter drugs, cheating, parking, sexual harassment on campus.

“This year when Tim [Sweet-Holp] and Anne [Black] asked me to become involved with the United Way needs assessment survey, I thought it offered a great opportunity for my students to learn more about polling and help the community at the same time. Students are excited about participating in a research project that will benefit the community. They've been interested in how the United Way will use the information obtained through this survey to allocate money to community needs, how the questionnaire was developed and how interested respondents will be in participating in the project.”

Students will be placing calls from the University's newly opened communication research lab, which features telephone polling software. Dr. Weiwu Zhang, assistant professor of communication, will supervise their work in the lab.

Sweet-Holp says members of the investigative team plan to have the survey data compiled by mid-November so they can deliver a complete needs assessment document to United Way by next spring.

In addition, Sweet-Holp says Dr. Gregory Ridenour, associate professor of geosciences, will use GIS (geographic information systems) technology to map areas of need. “Spacially, we'll be able to see where the needs exist,” he says. “We'll see the low-income areas and areas where there are high concentrations of the elderly or young children.”

He adds, “We've had very broad participation from lots of folks on campus. It's a nice effort on Austin Peay's part, and it creates a good perception of Austin Peay as an active partner with United Way.

“We've been able to provide a good learning experience to our students, and we're helping out the community.”

Austin Peay is partnering with United Way on several other projects.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Women's Studies program and Centerstone are sponsoring a Forget-Me-Not drive to collect items for personal care, as well as home and baby care, on Oct. 22. Centerstone is affiliated with the TBR Employee Charitable Campaign as a United Way agency.

APSU's Office of Student Life and Leadership recently kicked off the “APSU ‘Can' Provide” food drive with the delivery of 1,800 cans of food to Urban Ministries, a United Way agency. The goal is to collect 14,000 cans of food (two per student) by Spring Commencement. The official drop-off location is just outside Java City in the lobby of the UC.

The University recently launched this year's participation in the TBR Employee Charitable Campaign, which includes agencies of the United Way. Last year, Austin Peay ranked third in the local community in terms of the number of employees who donated $500 or more. In appreciation, those employees received membership in the Cumberland Society of United Way and the gift of a signed painting donated by a local artist. This year's goal is to increase overall giving by 25 percent for a total campaign donation of $25,409.
—Rebecca Mackey