USF is located in the competitive higher education market of the Bay Area, so we need to always be aware of the marketing dimensions of this environment—what trends are emerging, the current conditions, where we sit in the market, how we can find and maintain our distinctiveness. Hanover has done studies for USF under previous deans; of all the research firms, Hanover’s done the most research for USF, so it was logical to us to partner for research into these areas.
USF is organized in two ways—we have department chairs and program chairs who manage graduate programs. Hanover’s research will provide meaningful insights for faculty at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This research will help with decision-making as we manage our academic portfolios and imagine the future. Like most other institutions around the world, we were online for the first time last March; now that we’ve been online for a year, we’re learning which areas of online pedagogy we want to maintain and think about for the future. Additionally, our centennial anniversary is coming up, so it’s a great opportunity to reimagine ourselves and what we could be like in the next 100 years. Hanover’s research will provide the empirical insights we need to begin the process.
The key for any institution considering commissioning research is to take time in framing research questions carefully. Research can be helpful, but only as helpful as one is able to frame questions that are useful and empirically measurable. In our case, we have far-ranging discussions among faculty and staff about the questions we would like Hanover to look into; this is an ongoing process, but we will likely settle on four to five areas we really need to understand where we think Hanover can help.
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