WFU names Ananda Mitra director of Survey Research Center
By Maggie Barrett
Ananda Mitra has been named the first director of the Wake Forest University Survey Research Center. Mitra had served as interim director since the center's establishment in September 2003. At Wake Forest, Mitra continues as an associate professor of communication and director of graduate studies for the communication department.
Located at the intersection of Polo and Reynolda roads, the center is dedicated to survey methodology. Created to expand the capacity for research in the Triad area, the center will meet the research needs of students, faculty and staff at Wake Forest, including the Reynolda and Bowman Gray Campuses. The center will help its clients develop and conduct surveys in the Triad. It was founded on the recommendation of an intercampus task force led by Sally Shumaker. Shumaker is the director of the university's Office of Intercampus and Community Program Development.
The center has four full-time staff members, a part-time administrative assistant and a staff of nearly 30 part-time interviewers. Its functions include: focus group moderation, questionnaire design, sampling, computer-aided telephone interviewing, mail data collection, Web-based data collection and data analysis.
The center will provide several academic opportunities for Wake Forest faculty, staff and students through seminars, training, courses and research on emerging survey techniques, such as Web-based data collection.
Mitra joined the Wake Forest faculty in 1994. He previously served as head of the sampling section at the Survey Research Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and taught at Milliken University in Illinois. He holds a doctorate in speech communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his Master of Arts in speech communication and theatre arts from Wake Forest, and his Bachelor of Technology in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. His teaching and research interests include research methodology and the impact of new technologies on society and culture.
Mitra says the center will benefit both the university and the community.
"Survey research can point out problems or needs, and ultimately, lead to solutions that improve quality of life," Mitra said. "That's why university-founded centers like this are employed by businesses and organizations, as well as students and faculty."
Mitra says one of the goals of the center is to engage in community outreach by marketing its services not only to Wake Forest faculty and staff, but to community-based institutions and eventually, area businesses.
As part of its community outreach, the center plans to conduct an annual survey on issues affecting people who live in Triad. The study will focus on quality of life issues such as education, safety and public services.
"That way, businesses and organizations in the area can get a better idea of what people here want and need, and then use that information to find ways to meet those criteria," Mitra said.
The regional study will also provide researchers at Wake Forest and other local universities an opportunity for ongoing analysis of social, cultural and political trends in the area. This study will be similar to other regional studies, such as those conducted in Michigan and California. The study will be funded by various sources including the university's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs of the Reynolda Campus.