May 22, 2013
Research done by Flagler College students and Associate Professor Casey Welch played a role in helping the City of St. Augustine reopen the Galimore Center and Pool.
“When the city took over the Center and Pool, there was no data on public preferences, so our politicians and city workers had to rely on guesswork,” said Welch, who conducted the research with members of his Sociology Research Methods course. “With that in mind, in 2011 I offered to conduct pro bono research regarding attitudes toward the Galimore Center and Pool.”
Over 14 months, Welch worked with 14 sociology students to fill that gap with objective and independent data from three qualitative projects and two surveys, which gave a good picture of current attitudes toward such a community facility.
“No matter which groups we analyzed, residential neighborhood, income, family size, race, and so on, there was still strong support for the pool and recreational center and a willingness to pay more in taxes and fees to fund it,” said Welch.
For the students, this was an opportunity not just to provide a community service, but also to show how research can be applied to real world problems.
“It was lots of work for the first semester and the year after, so it's exciting to see it have a positive impact,” said Flagler student Lauren Ruotolo, who led the student research team. “We spent lots of energy to gather, compile and present the research data. I'm really happy that the research was able to help make the community a better place."
Flagler student Sarah Williamson is also happy her work helped make a difference.
"A year and a half ago, I wouldn't have believed that all of our research actually paid off,” said Williamson. “This shows how important it is for the city and its people to establish a relationship where they truly understand one another. "
The new pool is slated to open Memorial Day weekend.