Longtime Lethbridge College instructor Dr. Faron Ellis has taken on a new role as Research Chair at the Citizen Society Research Lab (CSRL), which will allow him to offer CSRL applied research experiences to more students in more Lethbridge College programs, while providing research services to a larger number of community and industry partners.
“We are thrilled Faron is working in this new position at the college,” says Lethbridge College President and CEO Dr. Paula Burns. “He and his students have pioneered the college’s pursuit of applied research and, by extension, have helped promote Lethbridge College to a national platform. This new Research Chair will give Faron more time to oversee the CSRL, allowing the lab to take on more topics and work with a broader spectrum of students. By extension, Faron’s new role will provide even more great learning opportunities for our students and meaningful research for our community and country.”
The CSRL is part of Lethbridge College’s Centre of Applied Arts and Science and is supported by the Centre of Applied Research and Innovation. It was established in 2001 soon after Dr. Ellis began teaching at the college, and it is one of the college’s earliest and most successful applied research and teaching initiatives.
Initially developed as a way to engage students in his Local Government class in applied research, the CSRL has flourished under Dr. Ellis’ leadership to become a nationally-recognized quantitative public opinion service provider. Using omnibus surveys conducted by college students each semester, the CSRL measures public opinion on a variety of issues that are of interest to our students, faculty, industry partners and community organizations.
“This new position will allow the college to offer more applied research opportunities to students in more programs,” says Dr. Ellis, adding that he appreciates the college’s commitment to integrating applied research activities into the curriculum in a wide variety of courses. “We’ve been providing this opportunity to Liberal Arts students for years, and we can now provide it to other social science-related fields such as Justice Studies, Health and Human Services programs, and Multimedia, among others.”
Students often are grateful for the opportunity to put the theories they learn in the classroom into action, he notes. “The data becomes real for them – it is a lived experience,” Dr. Ellis says. “And they see that their research actually makes a difference. They see that the data they collect can alter the way a politician thinks about issues at the highest levels.”
The new position was made possible with funding from the Center for Applied Arts and Sciences and is strongly supported by senior leadership at the college.
“Lethbridge College places high value in the work of Dr. Ellis in the CSRL,” says Dr. Edith Olson interim Dean of the Centre for Applied Arts and Sciences. “His dedication to students, leadership, and strong analytical skills produce a level of student engagement and quality of work that is exemplary. Through this new position, Dr. Ellis conducts meaningful surveys that have implications for the social, economic and community fabric of our society.”
Since its founding, the CSRL has partnered with 17 small- and medium-sized enterprises and community organizations, released nearly 200 reports analyzing public opinion in Lethbridge and throughout the province of Alberta, engaged 17 faculty members, and trained over 2,500 students. Students who participate in projects led by CSRL learn not only important applied research skills – including theoretical development and design, data collection, and ethics training – but also valuable workplace skills such as critical thinking, communication, administration and project management.
“The work done by students in the CSRL also offers affordable, high quality market data used by industry and community organizations to make evidence-based decisions,” says Gina Funicelli, Dean of the Centre of Applied Research and Innovation, adding that Faron’s enhanced role means the Centre will be able to increase experiential learning opportunities for students and build capacity to support more partnerships.
“It is a pleasure to work with Dr. Ellis,” adds Olson. “To see him work with the students in the CSRL is to see him in his element. They get so much from him in terms of experience, and he in turn gets so much from working with them. Dr. Ellis demonstrates his knowledge, skills, passion and enthusiasm through his work with the CSRL.”
The CSRL received a bronze Innovation in Applied Research Excellence Award at the Colleges and Institutes Canada annual conference earlier this year. Ellis has received the Lethbridge College Students’ Association/Faculty Association Teaching Excellence Award twice during his nearly 20-year tenure as an instructor – first in 2007 and most recently in 2016.