Alumni News


Polls by Andrew Smith and the UNH Survey Center influence national policies and research

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Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services

Around the globe, people know the work of Andrew Smith and the UNH Survey Center. His expertise and analysis on New Hampshire and national politics, especially during presidential election season, are in constant demand from countless news outlets.

With a strong emphasis on producing research that is clear and concise, Smith and the survey center have a reputation for providing government, business leaders, private organizations and fellow university researchers with reliable information about public opinion on policy matters ranging from seat belt use and smoking to school funding and health care. A recent "poll of pollsters" found that Smith's colleagues ranked him the most reliable in the state.

"It is fair to say that the Survey Center has become part of the 'mental infrastructure' of New Hampshire, generating vital knowledge for a wide variety of actors in the Granite State," says Dante Scala, chair of the political science department. Scala notes that Smith also spends considerable time on the local lecture circuit sharing his work and knowledge with the greater public. "Andrew Smith is a premiere goodwill ambassador for the university, both nationally and internationally," he says.

For Smith, the winner of the UNH Alumni Association's Award for Excellence in Public Service, that's what it's all about. "The Survey Center is a great example of the New Hampshire way," he says. "Public opinion polling informs research at UNH and policy at the local and national levels that benefits us all. That same research allows students in the classroom as well as nonprofit organizations throughout the state to have the most up-to-date information available."

Smith, also an associate professor of political science, talks proudly about how the research that comes out of the center is influential. He rattles off many examples, including the careful evaluation of Service Link, a county-based information and referral program for the elderly and adults with disabilities that resulted in more people being able to stay home and take control of their lives. Another success was the United Way's 2-1-1 New Hampshire, which connects callers to information about critical health and human services available in their communities. That project involved multiple UNH departments and the leadership of Smith as a member of the nonprofit organization's board of directors.

Smith says partnerships like these make organizations more efficient and effective. "You don't always have to build a whole new organization," said Smith. "It's about bringing together university research with business, not-for-profit organizations and government agencies. That then feeds back to research, providing real data, and that influences teaching." ~

In the Spotlight: In Good Company
Linked by their alma mater, alumni create a new chapter

When it was announced a few years ago that the UNH football team was traveling to the Midwest to play Northwestern, a Big-Ten team, some UNH alums in the Chicago area saw it as an opportunity.

"It was obviously a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to think that UNH was going to play football in the Midwest," says Michael Wyman '81 of Winnetka, Ill.

Jay DeWitt '86, who also lives in Winnetka, agreed. He had tried unsuccessfully a few years earlier to round up a group of graduates. But this time, with the help of Wyman and Craig Heisner '88 of Northbrook, Ill.,—and armed with an Alumni Association list of graduates from the Chicago area—the impetus was there to get the word out.

What they found is that UNH alums hadn't forgotten their roots. Graduates spanning the decades not only turned out to support the team, but have met occasionally since then, including a recent event to meet UNH President Mark Huddleston.

WILDCATS: From left, Michael Wyman '81, Jay DeWitt '86 and Craig Heisner '88 at the UNH vs. Northwestern football reception in 2006.

"We're a heck of a long way from Durham, but these people have an affinity for UNH," says DeWitt, who was born and raised in New Hampshire. "Most of us look back at our time at UNH as a good time in our life, and a time that we made some lasting connections."

That is why DeWitt, Heisner and Wyman, among others, are working with the Alumni Association to get an official Chicago-area chapter off the ground. They've already set up a Facebook page (UNH Chicago Alums) and a LinkedIn group (University of New Hampshire Chicago Alums); there's also a chapter page on the UNH alumni site.

"I have been absolutely flabbergasted by the number of us who are out here," says Betsy Flounders Novak '87, noting that nearly 600 UNH alums live within driving distance of Chicago. "People really do hold their UNH memories near and dear. Even though we are all from different backgrounds, to have that commonality, it's just fun."

The goal is to have several events every year hosted by the Chicago chapter. "We sort of miss and crave that affiliation with the university," Heisner says. "Any opportunity to get together with fellow alums is a great way to keep that connection."

Maggie Morrison '83, assistant director of alumni programs, says that is why the Alumni Association encourages groups like the one in Chicago as it moves to add new chapters in the coming years.

Chicago and Los Angeles are two regions of the country where "we have a group of very committed alumni who we're working with to build a stronger presence," she says. "They understand the value of alumni networking and staying connected with each other for a variety of professional and personal reasons."

Heisner who recently became a special director with the Alumni Association board, calls it a "win-win" for UNH, the Alumni Association, graduates and potential students. "The idea is definitely to improve networking for graduates and to increase awareness of the school so that folks consider UNH when it comes time to choose a school," he says. ~

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