It’s not news that Hobart and William Smith Colleges are home to students committed to serving their community. But with a majority of students taking part in community service on a regular basis, Associate Director of the CCESL Katie Flowers was curious about the economic impact of students’ community engagement in Geneva. She approached Professor of Economics Pat McGuire about finding this information. McGuire conducted an economic survey 10 years prior, the data from which had proven very useful to the Colleges and the city of Geneva during the past several years. Together, the Economics Department and the Center for Community Engagement and Community Service-Learning undertook a study to measure the economic and community service impact of the Colleges on the Geneva area.
The study itself was part of a Community-Based research project that began in the spring and will continue this summer. McGuire completed two previous reports of the economic impact of HWS on the Geneva area economy as part of two separate honors projects in the economics department: Andrew Lyman ’94 and Khawar Khokhar ’00. This time, he enlisted the help of Brittany Callaghan ’10, Thomas Capalbo ’11, Ross Hicks ’11, Sean Breen ’12, Haoyu Wang ’12, who conducted a sample survey of the HWS community, with a total of 550 of their peers responding.
“Since the last impact study was 10 years ago, I thought it was important to undergo another study for the academic year 2009-10,” says McGuire. He added a component about assessing student impact in the community in terms of self-reported civic involvement of faculty, staff, and students, which was not included in the previous survey. “Community service is another important economic impact students have on the Geneva community,” he explains. “We want to share this information with Genevans so that they understand that HWS students don’t just spend their money downtown; they’re a part of the community and are committed to serving it.”
The study will benefit the Colleges in a number of ways. First, it will show the income and employment impact of the Colleges on the local community. For example, the Colleges, along with Sodexo dining services, employ more than 750 workers. The Colleges’ spending, student spending and faculty and staff spending also have a large impact on local retail sales, sales tax and employment. In short, many spending and employment streams are available because of the Colleges.
Secondly, it will help the Colleges continue to foster positive relationships with the Geneva community. “This information is important to our office as we seek to assess areas of greatest impact, as well as opportunities for further involvement,” says Flowers. “With the Geneva Partnership underway, the more current and accurate the information is, the more fruitful and reciprocal HWS and community collaborations can become.”
The student researchers presented their initial findings based on the survey of their peers at this spring’s Geneva Collaborative Experience. McGuire is continuing efforts to obtain information from faculty and staff. Once all the data is gathered, he will analyze the results and share them with the Geneva community in the fall.