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College students partner with local organizations to survey community needs

The anonymous survey was deployed by the Ahrens Family Foundation and the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation in January, 2022. Photo Contributed.

The computer science department at Grinnell College has partnered with the Ahrens Family Foundation and the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation to help design a survey to assess the needs of the people of Grinnell while putting students’ interdisciplinary skills to the test. 

The Ahrens Family Foundation (AFF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life across the greater Grinnell Area. One of the focuses of the AFF is helping to meet the needs of the community. To do this, the AFF partnered with the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation and the department of computer science at the College. Together, they created a survey to assess the needs of the community. The survey asks for demographic information like annual household income as well as information about mental health resources, transportation access and food assistance programs. 

The project began after Susan Sennings, associate dean and director of service and social innovation, connected Professor Fernanda Eliott and Jennifer Cogley, the director of partner programs for the AFF. 

Students from the Software Design and Development (CSC 324) and Software Development Leadership (CSC 326) courses volunteered together on the survey. The students were divided into two groups: one focused to crafting the questions based on the information needed by the AFF, and the other on the technical aspects of the survey.  

In addition to the survey, the students created a software user manual that would help the AFF modify or design a different survey should they need one in the future, Eliott said. 

“[T]hey were mentioning these sociology courses and other courses they took in here that were not from [computer science] at all, and how these courses were really helping them to think about what they were doing … it was very satisfying to hear them discussing what was going on and using knowledge from these other courses, these other disciplines,” Eliott said. 

Eliott described the process as highly cooperative. Both groups of students provided feedback to each other as well as the community partner, Jennifer Cogley. 

All of the projects also involved Grinnell Alumni. 

This was not the only project done by students from the Software Design and Development and Software Development Leadership courses. During the fall 2021 semester, there were eight student projects, all of them with the purpose of helping the community, said Eliott. However, the survey was the only one associated with a partner outside the College. 

Cogley mentioned the survey was finished in the fall, but due to the approaching holidays the release was scheduled for January. Since the survey’s release on Jan. 27, 2022 there have been approximately 250 responses. 

The survey is expected to stay open until the end of February, Cogley said.

Cogley described the survey as being “helpful” and although there are no other collaborative projects between the computer science department and the AFF as of now, she hopes they can work together again in the future. 

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Jandry Perez Garcia
Jandry Perez Garcia, News Editor
Jandry is a fourth-year economics student. He loves to cook, especially crepes, which he can be found making in Younker kitchen.
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