Campus Life

UWF center connects graduate students to the community

In 2007, the University of West Florida Community Outreach Research and Learning (CORAL) Center opened its doors to graduate students to provide valuable opportunities for community-based research projects. Serving as liaisons with community organizations, students gain hands-on research skills while providing crucial information to local agencies.

“One of the biggest benefits of the CORAL Center is the opportunity it provides for students to conduct authentic research projects that connect to the community,” said Carla Thompson, director of the CORAL Center. “Through their research and analysis, it’s a great way for students to give back to the community.”

Open to all graduate students, the CORAL Center provides assistance in designing/conducting research projects in the social sciences and in using statistical procedures in social science research efforts. Students become connected with specific organizations and agencies to provide research at little or no cost to many non-profit organizations.

“The kind of service we offer is generally the kind of service most non-profit organizations wouldn’t be able to afford,” said Thompson. “The community agency receives research results that will benefit them in funding opportunities and in improving their services, and in turn, our students benefit by conducting real-world research applications.”

Graduate students taking “Research and Statistics” classes are able to receive course credit for their research using community action projects. Projects vary from simple survey research involving only a few weeks to quasi-experimental research projects involving two to three years.

“We have more than 20 projects in progress right now involving our graduate students,” said Thompson. “It gives them a real confidence in their skills as researchers. They see research from a real-world, hands-on perspective that benefits society, not just as a course requirement.”

Whether students are working with Santa Rosa County School District evaluating the Early Reading Intervention program, examining the effectiveness of services used by the Independent Living for the Blind, determining factors that predict employability of welfare transition participants for Workforce Escarosa, analyzing data from prisoners in work release programs through Pathways for Change or creating student achievement profiles for the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola, there are many opportunities for graduate students of all career field interests to engage in research projects through the CORAL Center. To view a list of current projects, visit

Throughout the year, the CORAL Center also assists graduate students with thesis and dissertation projects and offers more than 30 workshops and seminars for graduate students, faculty, administrators and the community. In 2009, the CORAL Center and COPS will host the 2009 Rocky Mountain Educational Research Association (RMERA) Annual Conference as a regional conference for AERA (American Educational Research Association) with invited research paper competitions for faculty and students across the country.

For more information about the UWF CORAL Center, contact Carla Thompson at (850) 473-7327 or e-mail, or visit the CORAL Center Web site at

By Megan Tyson, University Marketing Communications