GVSU Students Assist Grand Haven

September 29, 2006
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GRAND HAVEN — GrandValleyStateUniversity statistics students are doing Grand Haven a favor — one that saves the city at least $10,000.

John Gabrosek, associate professor in the department of statistics, said he heard about the need for a survey on the city's infrastructure through a newspaper article and called the city of Grand Haven to see if he and his students could take on the project.

"That would be great for a class I'm teaching called Introduction to Survey Sampling," Gabrosek said about his first thought when he read the article.

GrandHavenCity ManagerPat McGinnis said he thought it was meant to be.

"It was sort of providence that we needed to do a survey, and he needed a good topic for one of his undergraduate classes at GrandValley," he said.

After Grand Haven residents did not support a ballot issue for a 2-mill property tax, McGinnis said, city officials wanted to get a better idea of what the residents thought about the area's infrastructure.

"What we need is an accurate picture of the public's opinion on how they would like to pay for infrastructure improvements in the future," he said. "We expect through this process to be able to learn and strategize about how to restore our failing infrastructure."

Gabrosek said he envisioned a questionnaire being developed early in the winter semester, and then toward the end of February, the questionnaire would be reviewed by the city council and a pilot study would take place to determine the quality of the questions.

"Then we'll modify the questions and make them a little bit clearer," he said. "Hopefully, by the middle of March, we'll send out the survey."

After the survey is completed, the students will do data entry and analysis.

"From the context of the course aspect, it's a chance for them to see all the sort of theoretical things we talk about in class," he said.

Gaborsek said the students will be able to use their skill sets to solve real problems.

"I think that will definitely open their eyes from the standpoint of using that material in class," he said.

It will also give the students a better view of local government and perform a service for the community, Gabrosek said.

"We're trying to increase our presence in the community, and I think service learning is one way to do that," he said. "For me, personally, living in Grand Haven, it's really a great chance for me to use my skills and my training and give something back to my city."

McGinnis said he thought the project will be beneficial to the city because it gives them a free service from the best talent.

"You shouldn't go out and be casual on how you gauge public opinion," he said. "Doing it right is very important."

McGinnis said he was also pleased to be helping the students further their education.

"When they can come out and see that it's very practical, I think it will really give them a much better appreciation for the material that they are covering in class."    

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