David Wegge (Political Science), director of the
St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute
The newly named St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute makes its debut
St. Norbert long has had a voice in the conversation on important issues in the region. The new St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute is giving that voice broader reach and deeper resonance, boosting the college’s status as an engaged, contributing presence in the greater community.
The institute offers an array of social science research services, including economic impact analyses, statistical modeling, feasibility studies, market research, message testing and demographic projections, among others. Given that range, the name by which the institute had been known since its founding in 1983 – the Survey Center – no longer fit.
“Our bread and butter has always been surveys, and that will probably continue to be a base of what we do,” says David Wegge (Political Science), director of the institute. “But we are expanding to provide other kinds of services for people in this region, beyond Wisconsin and the Midwest, and even nationally.”
Wegge and other institute associates already are respected social scientists. They are frequent contributors to Wisconsin Public Radio, discussing elections and other indicators of the zeitgeist, and their work enhances St. Norbert’s visibility in the state and beyond.
In recent years, the institute has seen steady growth in its base of both public- and private-enterprise clients. It has conducted studies for government agencies including the Wisconsin departments of commerce and transportation; the Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission; the cities of Sheboygan and De Pere; Brown County; and the Green Bay Area Public School District.
Among the institute’s better-known commercial clients are Nicolet National Bank, Cellcom, the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Public Service, Wisconsin Public Radio and Affinity Health System.
As he shepherds the organization he founded nearly 30 years ago through a new period of growth, Wegge also finds himself in the midst of a sea change in how research is conducted.
“Things are changing dramatically in terms of how technology is affecting survey work,” he says. “And the whole survey research community is in a transitional phase from the standard telephone surveys, mail surveys and face-to-face surveys over to the digital, using the internet and doing online surveys.”
Amidst all the change, Wegge says the institute’s adherence to the highest ethical standards remains constant. “We follow three industry ethics codes: two from the Market Research Association and one from the American Association of Public Opinion Research. There are some questionable practices by fringe players in the research business, but that’s not us. For both the institute and the college, integrity is at the very core of what we do.”