PAYING OFF: Elizabeth Shokunbi, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, works at URI’s Center for Sensors and Instrumentation Research. The center generates revenue through clients, including the R.I. State Crime Laboratory.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Gerald Cohen, left, international trade specialist for the Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University, and Raymond W. Fogarty, director of Chafee Center for International Business.
Paying a couple of thousand dollars for a student-run research study at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth can be a good deal – but not just for the business client.
It also produces a revenue stream that, while not generating a profit, covers the costs associated with educating students at the school’s Center for Marketing Research and providing the local business community with surveys it might not otherwise be able to afford, said Nora Ganim Barnes, the center’s director and chancellor professor of marketing.
“The impetus is twofold,” Barnes said. “In the Fall River/New Bedford area, businesses have been hit hard and you want to help them if you can. At the same time, we have students who need job opportunities. … If you can provide a product that had commercial value of between $15,000 and $20,000, and you could do it for $4,500, it would seem everybody wins.”
Like UMass Dartmouth, specialized research centers at Bryant University and the University of Rhode Island charge for research that students participate in, though the extent of student involvement varies depending on the center. And while UMass Dartmouth puts any surplus revenue toward scholarships, Bryant and URI run break-even operations – but with a similar motivation: to partner with the business community and provide students with real-world business experience.
David Slutz, president and CEO of Precix, a New Bedford manufacturer of sealing products for automotive fuel and brake lines, has done a survey every year for the past 12 years with UMass Dartmouth. As a member of the center’s advisory board, he only pays $2,500, he said. What’s more, professional survey response rates are lower than what he gets with the UMass study.
“We use the kids, and we get better results,” Slutz said. “It costs me less money. The kids get great experience. I stay compliant with my certification body. It’s a trifecta.”
Bryant’s Chafee Center for International Business is a nonprofit. About 40 students are paid for their research work. A couple of hundred others do academic research that is unpaid. All told, close to 300 students a year, mostly from Bryant, but also from other schools, participate, said Raymond Fogarty, the center’s director.