A Look at the St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute: More than Just Politics

BY JOE LYONS

The St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute (SRI) under Dr. David Wegge, provides valuable social science research to clients throughout the region. Although it is mainly known as one of the most well respected polling institutions in the Midwest, a vast majority of its work focuses on other areas of public and private sector research.

That is not to say that the Strategic Research Institute’s reputation as a political polling organization is not well earned. Dr. Wegge began the Survey Center in 1983 as a political project, with the goal of doing pre-election polling in election years and public policy polling in non-election years. It gained its first significant attention in 1986 with the correct prediction of Tommy Thompson winning the gubernatorial race, as it was the only polling organization to say he was ahead. Two years later, a partnership with Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) was formed that has lasted until the present. In 2010, Nate Silver, a statistical expert for the New York Times, conducted a statistical analysis of the accuracy of pre-election polls nationwide. Of the 265 polling organizations examined, St. Norbert College’s Strategic Research Institute was ranked 45th overall in terms of accuracy, 11th overall among academic institutions and first in the state of Wisconsin. SNC benefits greatly from this work. In 2012, the SRI achieved $1.5 million in public relations value for the school.

However, the Statewide Survey is only five percent of the work which is done by the Strategic Research Institute. Many of its clients are businesses. Recently the focus has been on the healthcare industry, with research and collaborations done with companies such as ThedaCare, Aurora Health Care, Bellin Health, Prevea Health, St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Children Hospital of Wisconsin. With the introduction of the Medical College to the SNC campus, SRI looks to develop a relationship with the institution. Work with these organizations so far has included a Behavioral Risk Factor Survey for Brown County and a statistical analysis of medical trials research.

Much of the work also has to do with enhancing economic development. For instance, a study was recently done for Austin Straubel International Airport to see how the business community perceives it. Similar studies have been done for Definitely De Pere, a group that represents businesses in downtown De Pere. Other clients include Green Bay Packaging, Amerhart, Packerland Brokeerage, Nicolet Bank, Affinity and Integrys. Some of the studies have to do with what drives a customer’s overall satisfaction to help identify priorities, while others focus on organizational cultures within companies. Work has also been done for public organizations such as the City of De Pere and the Brown County Library System, as well as nonprofits like the iOme Challenge.

A point of emphasis for the Strategic Research Institute is to get more students involved. There are opportunities for student employment as interviewers, as there are several important research projects scheduled in the upcoming months. Dr. Wegge says one of the benefits of working for the Institute is the experience it provides when seeking analytical jobs. Any major can find valuable experience, especially those considering graduate school. The SRI has also hired a former student and a student intern. It is also a job separate from the college, so students can work there without the restrictions of an on-campus job. The SRI offers flexible hours in the evenings and weekends and allows workers to make their own schedules. If interested in this opportunity, students can obtain more information on their website at snc.edu/sri and at their office located on the second floor of Bemis International Center or by emailing sri@snc.edu.

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