President's Notebook  •  Fall 2013

Deborah FreundOur Greatest Strength

Recently, I have been talking and writing about the extraordinary research conducted at our university. I often underscore the distinction between research that ends in classrooms and lecture halls, and CGU’s strength in practice-based research involving collaborations with businesses and institutions beyond our campus borders. I take the position that, of the two approaches, practice-based research is the one that has the most impact. This approach offers our students—and the world at large—the greatest possibilities for positive change, and it better helps us realize our goals of doing research that matters.

This is why CGU stands apart. Many universities talk about “the unique environment they offer students.” I can tell you, because of our focus on rigorous practice-based research and education, and our committed transdisciplinary approach, CGU students experience more than the mere rhetoric of a recruitment brochure. I see it in all of our programs as students combine the necessary training and experience in the foundations of research with our faculty, and then apply those skills with partners in international business, faith communities, technological innovators, and political leaders. I see how this powerful combination that CGU offers hones their research and thinking skills to create real solutions for real problems.

An example is Applied Women’s Studies master’s student Meredith Anderson. Meredith conducted a research project working with Dianne Callister, the United Nations representative for American Mothers, an NGO centered at the UN and committed to addressing global struggles for mothers and families. Dianne is also chair of the Women’s Studies Council in the School of Arts & Humanities at CGU.

Meredith’s comprehensive project for American Mothers could have been just another research exercise. But, by her applying her skills and education, the organization received the critical data it needed for decision-making. Meredith, in turn, saw how an NGO can go from idea to impact with proper planning. Her foundational research will help American Mothers make critical decisions about the creation of educational clubs for young women at colleges and universities across the United States. These clubs would be dedicated to educating young women about the value, responsibilities, and challenges that motherhood entails.

I am also reminded of Lauren Bennett, who is working on a PhD 
in information systems and technology. Lauren is currently a product engineer for Esri, the world’s leading supplier of geographic information system (GIS) software and a valued partner with CGU. In 2008, Esri partnered with CGU’s Center for Information Systems and Technology (CISAT) to house a development center that provides students and faculty with the capability to teach and develop state-of-the-art GIS applications.

Lauren is just at the beginning of her study at CGU. She says she is drawing upon her classroom experiences at CGU, her involvement with CISAT faculty, and her work at Esri to begin mapping out potential research projects that will have an impact on the use of geographical information on critical issues. Lauren plans on asking impactful questions: What role does geography play in understanding healthcare delivery and outcomes? How can businesses incorporate GIS into their analyses and planning to make better decisions?

Another example comes to my mind. This past spring, four students and three faculty members from our Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management ran a pilot strategic branding project for Amgen, a large Southern California-based biotech firm. This project was part of the Drucker School’s new Institute for the Practice of Management (POM).

The nearly four-month-long project tasked the team to help Amgen determine how to best brand one of the company’s new product 
lines. The team conducted a comprehensive analysis to determine whether a new product category should be branded under the company brand or one of several other options. The project included significant primary research (surveys with physicians, pharmacists, and insurers); extensive regulatory research; and an exhaustive review of current academic literature in marketing, focused on branding choices. The end result? I can tell you, the project was a great success for students who benefited from their opportunities at Amgen, and for the corporation that was the recipient of a set of high-quality, actionable recommendations. The school’s POM program is currently discussing similar exciting projects with other firms and industries—so I expect to hear many more success stories.
CGU is rich with these types of examples of practice-based research and learning experiences for students. I see them every day across our five schools.

As we celebrate our 88th year this month, it is noteworthy that our engagement with the world remains anchored in sound theory energized by practice. It is an approach that impacts our students’ lives and has a powerful subsequent impact on an increasingly complex and constantly changing world.

Deborah A. Freund





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