My affiliation with the Institute for Community Research and Training goes back to its early days when Dr. Richard Pulice had a gleam in his keen set of eyes about extending the mission of the College of Saint Rose to support organizations in its community. I had known Dr. Pulice for several years because of his involvement with projects of interest to my former employer, the New York State Office of Mental Health. And, I’d known the College because children, while in younger school years, had enjoyed several science fairs sponsored on campus. That was about it. Years later, I’ve come to understand the vital role the College plays in its community, and appreciate Dr. Pulice’s purpose and wisdom in creating an institute within the College that seeks to support students, faculty, and community organizations in understanding and using social science research in a very effective and fairly unique marriage of perspectives.
This marriage of perspectives is what the Research and Training in the Institute’s title is all about. I’ve had many years of professional management experience with both of those terms but rarely have had them uttered (much less actualized) in combination. Most research (even research that is billed as “applied” rather than “basic“ science) has a time frame and sense of utility mostly associated with the movement of glacial ice. I’ve supervised teams of researchers who expressed both horror and disbelief if I suggested that their products a) had to be written so real people could understand them and b) had to be produced BEFORE studied interventions or projects terminated or were deemed beyond their useful life in the field. And, I’ve supervised human resource development types who were horrified when I suggested that a) training gigs that lasted a few hours and then moved on were never effective and that b) lectures weren’t learning. Given that both fields are well established, what did I know that they didn’t?
I knew instinctively that they needed to be immediately useful to those who were out in the front lines of human services trying to help people lead more productive and satisfying lives. Noble, maybe, but also realistic because the agencies who needed both good research products and effective, results oriented training were largely agencies funded through public dollars and all of us as tax payers have a right to expect a return on our investment. So, when the Institute for Community Research and Training was developed and many community agencies attended meetings and became clients, the “radical” idea of “let’s give folks tools they can actually use” was front and center. Faculty does studies that clients want and need and promptly provide feedback results. Training is a tool for quality improvement and focused on performance outcomes, both for staff and for the organization. Make sense? Yes, and it’s a model that is unique in academic circles. Integrated and customer focused. Food for thought.