Vol. 17, No. 16 May 3, 2001 Issue

WSU effort to LINK to community under way

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

WSU’s initiative to connect faculty expertise to community groups for joint funded research and service projects is under way.

WSU-LINK became a reality last month with the appointment of an executive director. Philip Gaunt, a professor in the Elliott School of Communication since 1990 and director of the Interdisciplinary Communication Research Institute, became executive director of WSU-LINK April 1.

WSU-LINK’s office is located in Elliott Hall and it has a phone number that should be remembered easily: WSU-LINK (978-5465).

When the initiative was first discussed in fall 1999 by faculty and community nonprofit groups, it was known as the human services initiative. It also temporarily went by the name WSU CAN, which stood for Community Access Network. An article in the Dec. 7 issue of Inside WSU reported the proposed effort and its mission.

WSU-LINK will be a point of contact for both community groups, such as nonprofits or local government agencies, and WSU faculty interested in new projects.

Together, the community group and the faculty member would pursue funding for projects in the areas of health and human services. Grant providers, such as the federal government and private foundations, are increasingly funding projects that can show both academic and practical outcomes.

"Having an academic researcher involved in a project sometimes makes it more credible," said Gaunt, who has experience in social marketing. He’s most recently been managing a statewide media campaign with the Kansas Health Foundation and Sullivan Higdon & Sink focused on adult involvement in children’s lives.

In one of two information meetings for faculty last month, Gaunt assured that WSU-LINK will not replace any current WSU services, centers or institutes already working with the community.

It also will not usurp existing relationships between WSU faculty and community groups. For example, the psychology department’s Self-Help Network of Kansas works with a number of local agencies, including the Kansas Health Foundation, on efforts to improve lives. WSU-LINK wouldn’t interfere with those efforts. It also won’t require faculty to pursue projects.

When a WSU planning team consulted with organizations such as Social and Rehabilitation Services, the American Red Cross, Rainbows United, United Methodist Urban Ministries and local government agencies, the WSU team often heard examples of how groups didn’t know who to contact at the university for possible joint projects. Likewise, some faculty indicated in focus group meetings that they, too, would like to partner with community groups in research and service projects.

Nancy Monnat Greever has been hired as director of operations. Gaunt will add an office assistant, a graduate research assistant and a grant writer to WSU-LINK’s staff. Its Web site, www.wsulink.org, is currently under construction.

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Inside WSU is published by the Office of University Communications for Wichita State University faculty, staff and friends on biweekly Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. Items to be considered for publication should be sent to campus box 62 or Amy.Geiszler-Jones@wichita.edu 10 days before publication.

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