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CSC to host collaborative research workshops

Mel Flanagan | Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) will host two Community-Based Research workshops for students interested in collaborating with community residents and organizations to conduct research projects.

Naomi Penney, the CSC’s research collaboration liaison between Notre Dame and South Bend, will introduce the workshops, which will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. and Oct. 10, at 6:30 p.m.

Senior Kaitlin Wegrzyn, a speaker at the workshops who has participated in community-based research, said the CSC is aiming to help students better understand what this type of research is about.

“We’re trying to get more students involved in community-based research, and to kind of tell students what the differences between community-based research and academic research are,” she said. “We also want to offer them a student’s perspective.”

Wegrzyn is currently collaborating with South Bend residents through No Parent Left Behind, a non-profit organization that holds workshops for parents to learn how to be involved in their child’s education.

Her job focuses on finding out what parents learned from the workshops and how they can be improved, Wegrzyn said.

“We’re going through and doing qualitative research on all the focus group transcripts that parents completed after they went to the workshop,” she said. “I’m working directly with another parent that went through the program. We’re working to go through them together and coding it together.”

Senior Luke Horvath, a student assistant for Penney who will also speak at the workshops, said he became involved with community-based research when he participated in an International Summer Service Learning Program this past summer in Uganda.

“Notre Dame has a partnership with a university to run development projects like community gardens and things like that,” he said. “I was conducting research about saving SILC [Savings and Internal Lending Communities] groups, groups of people in the community who come together and pool their savings.”

Community-based research projects aim to help community organizations that have identified research needs, Horvath said.

Participating South Bend organizations include Memorial Hospital of South Bend, where students can work on child development projects, and the Center for the Homeless, where students work with residents of the shelter to develop research projects together.

“It’s rigorous research, it has surveys and different methods that go along with it,” Horvath said. “It’s just a different way of going about it, to utilize the relations in the community to get the information that professional researchers might not be able to get because they don’t have relations within the community.”

The workshops will discuss the differences between community-based research and academic research and the role of the former in the community. After, Wegrzyn and Horvath will discuss their own experiences in the field.

“We’re going to talk about what things we’ve learned from community-based research that we wouldn’t have necessarily have learned just working in a lab or working in a research apprenticeship through our majors,” Wegrzyn said.

The key is to begin with a question from the community, Wegrzyn said, to accomplish a genuine need for the community.

“It’s not just giving service hours to help people and see the outcome immediately,” she said. “You’re working directly with them through a research process and using different methods to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish.”