May 13, 2004

Marketing students benefit from software grant

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- John H. Summey is doing his part to make sure the students he teaches in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's College of Business and Administration are well prepared for that first job hunt after graduation.

An associate professor of marketing, Summey successfully applied for a grant from Herndon, Va.-based WebSurveyor, the leading provider of do-it-yourself online survey solutions. The company's academic grant program provides a renewable one-year product license for teaching and academic research, which includes software, updates and support. Commercial value of the software and support provided is $250,000, according to the company.

"WebSurveyor's Academic Grant Program gives professors and students unprecedented access to our powerful online survey solution. We are committed to providing the academic community with real-world technology that they can apply to the classroom learning experience and use to pursue academic research outside of the classroom," said Bruce Mancinelli, CEO of WebSurveyor.

The company accepts a limited number of schools into its grant program each year based on their use of the product to enhance students' educational experience.

Each semester, juniors and seniors in Summey's Marketing 390 class conduct research projects for local and out-of-state clients.

"The students are responsible for developing the questionnaire and conducting the surveys," he explained. "In the past, we would use the phone to call people, which takes a lot of the students' time. With the Internet it still takes time, but it is more efficient for the people on the receiving end and for the students. I wanted to bring the technology into the classroom, and this is top-level software."

The software is in use for the first time this semester. The students are providing survey information to a Nevada company trying to determine the level of interest among its clients for a new service. The class also has been conducting surveys for University Housing as well as one for the athletics department.

"This is the kind of software they would expect to be using when they get out of school," Summey said of the students. "This is state-of-the art software, which is important for students. We tie this together with state-of-the-art data analysis. The data will export directly, so students don't have to do data entry and they can go right to analysis."

The benefits of the WebSurveyor program extend beyond Summey's classroom. He noted that several graduate students are using the software for thesis research, and the package also is available to college faculty for their research.

The whole point is to make the marketing students more marketable.

"You're really preparing the students for the real world," he said. "In my class, I attempt to give them as close to a real world experience as they can get in the classroom. I tell them I am the facilitator, attempting to enable them to learn these processes."

Obtaining new sources of external grants is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.