UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
By: Zach Bares
Falcon News Service
Falcon News Service is part of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. News stories are prepared by student journalists.
The Survey Research Center at UW-River Falls has been around since 1990, but has a relatively low profile. It's a testament to how much work the center does for clients away from the university.
The center is located in the Regional Development Institute and works on 25-30 surveys per year, according to its website.
"The Survey Research Center is really focused on gathering data for local units of government, for academics, for non-profits, for cooperatives," said Director David Trechter, who also is a professor of agricultural economics. "And, because I'm here, we do a lot of stuff for the campus as well."
The center's most recent project was a survey for the St. Croix County office of University of Wisconsin-Extension. The county was looking into expanding its broadband internet connectivity.
Eric Biltonen, St. Croix County's community resource development agent, said that he and his team could not have put together as adequate of a survey as the research center did. Biltonen said that among reasons for working with the research center were "their experience with both doing surveys and (with) St. Croix County, and working through the drafts of the surveys to make sure they're covering what they need to."
The Survey Research Center put together a two-part survey for three specific areas in St. Croix County: St. Joseph Township, southern New Richmond and Hammond. It was a random sampling of how much broadband people had available to them and how much they would like to have.
"After the research center put the finishing touches on it, we found that a lot of people wanted or needed more broadband," Biltonen said.
Biltonen also said the extension office will continue to use the data and will look to the research center for any further surveys that will need to be conducted.
Trechter said the center works on projects from all over state. For example, the center recently completed a survey for West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee.
The Survey Research Center also offers on-campus employment to students. This year it has four student employees. Kaylin Spaeth, a senior agricultural business major, said she has gained valuable experience in her time with the research center.
"Basically it's a lot of organizational skills," Spaeth said. Spaeth noted how much better she is now at using Microsoft Excel than she was when she first started working at the center.
Spaeth also has learned a great deal about categorizing comments and analyzing them to figure out when there is a common response within a survey.
"It's helped me with other school projects and my internship that I did two years ago," Spaeth said.
She knows that she doesn't want to work with surveys the rest of her life, but Spaeth is appreciative of all of the things that she has learned.
More information about the Survey Research Center is available at uwrf.edu/SurveyResearchCenter.