SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – Wittenberg University changes lives every day. In the spring of 2006, Professor of Geography Olga Medvedkov’s Geography 390 class undertook a project that would change the lives of residents of Clark County.
Working with the innovative computer software program Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Medvedkov’s class worked with the Marriage Resource Center, based in Springfield, to fill gaps in data on divorce rates.
The research collected gave the center more than just direction in its day-to-day work. It provided background information that was utilized for the largest grant in the center’s history.
“I discussed with my class the fact that the national divorce average is roughly 49 percent, yet in some parts of Clark County, the divorce rate is 100 percent, in some parts of Ohio it is 200 percent,” Medvedkov said. “For the past eight years, I had my classes working in the community. The class is a resource we have, and I look to see where the community needs help.”
Medvedkov’s classes have worked with such organizations as the Springfield Fire and Police Departments in the past. This year, Medvedkov chose to work with the Marriage Resource Center, a non-profit establishment that mentors and offers counseling to married couples.
“Something was not working properly,” Medvedkov said. “There was no way to see the data. It’s impossible to look at tens of thousands of little boxes in tables and gather what all the numbers mean. We need a visual map of that data.”
That is what her class did, using the GIS software to make a significant impact on the community.
The class spent the spring semester in 2005 putting all divorces in a 10-year period on the map and identifying potential factors that affect divorce rates in Clark County. Then they analyzed the resulting data. From that point, they were able to narrow down where the divorces were concentrated.
“It’s a good compromise because we are able to see areas by city blocks,” Medvedkov said. “That way people have privacy because we don’t show where exactly they live, but we can demonstrate on what city block the divorces are concentrated and are able to map that out.
“In the end we had a map that we could look at and say ‘Okay, this is where we need to be focusing.’ It turned out that the majority of divorces in Clark County were occurring [south of] Route 40,” Medvedkov continued. “Because it runs through town, it divided Springfield in an obvious way. We realized that while divorces were occurring on the south side of town, the mentors were recruited in most cases form the north part of town.
“By overlaying a map with mentors with socio-economic-demographic data from the U.S. Population Census, we could also see on the map what kind of mentors would work best with the demographics of those couples getting divorces.”
The Marriage Resource Center utilized the findings to apply for the Healthy Marriage Demonstration Grant, a federally funded grant source offered by Aid to Children and Families (ACF).
“The class was able to confirm that divorces were happening south of [Route] 40,” said Ronda Nisslay, director of advancement at the Marriage Resource Center. “Because of that, we were able to request funds to target areas with higher concentration numbers. It allowed us to utilize our resources to target an at-risk population.
“The findings from Medvedkov’s class were enough to secure the resource center $540,000 a year for the next five years. It was our first time receiving the grant.”
Ironically, the classwork itself was funded by a grant. Medvedkov’s class was one of 11 to gain funding through a $50,000 grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans received by Wittenberg’s Office of Community Service in 2005. The grant funded an innovative project titled “Sowing Seeds of Servant Leadership: A Campus-Wide Integration of Service-Learning, Social Justice and Spirituality” that has provided students with various curricular and co-curricular service-learning opportunities.
“It was a great experience being able to work with Wittenberg students,” added Colleen Geondeff, assistant director of the marriage center. “They were interested in the subject matter, they had good ideas, and they were able to effectively synthesize the information that they collected into a presentation. We were fortunate and thankful to have had the opportunity.”
The feeling is mutual. Lisa Nicholls and Andrea Rossow, both class of 2006, were among the students in the class that embarked on this ambitious project. Both gained significantly from the experience – Rossow is now museum operations coordinator at The Westcott House Foundation in Springfield, and Nicholls recently gained employment as a GIS mapping tech in the Assessor’s Office for Canyon County in Caldwell, Idaho.
“It was also very rewarding for Wittenberg students to be so helpful to the local community by apply their skills in a problem-solving environment,” Medvedkov said. “Geography matters.”
By: Kimie James ‘07
Send a Message
• Book-Delivering Prof Named Ohio Professor of the Year
• Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
•Communication Program Honored Nationally With Top Award
• Wittenberg University Art Students Finalists For Scholarship Award