Clark University Research
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Active Learning and Research
Active Learning and Research
As a member of the University Park Partnership (UPP), Clark University has received national recognition for its efforts to improve the urban neighborhood of which it is a part. The UPP provides management professor Mary-Ellen Boyle and her students with a fertile laboratory for research on local business and management practices, as well as a chance to give back to the community.

Being neighborly

Professor Mary-Ellen Boyle's research
  • Read below about Dr. Boyle's summer 2001 creation of a report profiling the businesses in the University Park Partnership neighborhood.
  • Read the full text of Dr. Boyle's Community Enterprise Profile.
  • Read an online interview with Dr. Boyle.
  • Go to an online interview with Boyle's Business Ethics (MNGT 262) students Jason Green '05, Maria Melas '05, David McNamara '04, Candace Reddy '05, and Matthew Phaneuf '04, and learn how students develop ethical awareness while providing assistance to businesses and organizations in the Clark neighborhood.
  • Visit the Business Ethics Course Road Map to find out more about this class.

The purpose of the University Park Partnership is to
  • strengthen the relationship between Clark University and its neighbors
  • preserve and improve the surrounding neighborhood
  • provide residents with opportunities in business, housing, recreation, and education
As a first step in crafting an economic development strategy for the UPP, Dr. Boyle created a Community Enterprise Profile for the Partnership neighborhoods. Under her direction, multi-lingual teams from Clark and the Main South Community Development Corporation (MSCDC) interviewed local business owners. Eighty-five percent of the 88 businesses identified in the target area were surveyed. The resulting profile
  • inventories and describes the businesses in the area
  • ascertains the needs of business owners with regard to business and management assistance
  • describes how business owners perceive the neighborhood and local business climate
  • offers recommendations to encourage local economic development.
The University Park Partnership neighborhoods are characterized by low- to moderate-income households and a strong Latino and Asian minority presence. Closely spaced single- and multi-family homes line the residential streets. The majority of businesses are located along two main thoroughfares: Main Street and Park Avenue.

The survey revealed that while Clark University is the largest neighborhood employer, most establishments fall into the service or retail category (small restaurants and auto-related firms feature prominently), and slightly more than half employ less than five workers. Most companies are male-owned, and slightly more than half are family-owned. While neighborhood residents provide an important source of employees and customers, 80% of employees live outside the neighborhood. Of those businesses willing to provide financial information (about one-third) most are only marginally profitable. The majority of business owners felt that the character of the neighborhood had improved or remained the same in recent years, although about one quarter of the owners would like to leave the area. Approximately half expressed a desire for further business-related training in areas such as computer technology, banking and finance, and law.

Based on this survey, Boyle concludes that the UPP neighborhoods have ample room for new business development and expansion, including in manufacturing, and that new businesses would provide additional and much-needed local employment opportunities. She cites the lack of entertainment venues and other amenities that would retain university customers in the neighborhood. Several business owners expressed the desire for a local copy/print shop, post-office, and full-service bank branch. Boyle notes the need for additional franchises and another large employer to help anchor the business community.

The survey revealed that collaboration between businesses for their mutual benefit is hampered by geographic and ethnic differences. Particularly noticeable are perceptual differences between Main Street and Park Avenue business owners: many of the latter do not identify with the UPP neighborhood but rather with the more affluent West Side, and are wary of being associated with Clark and the Main Street area.

Boyle made several recommendations for strengthening businesses in the neighborhood, including
  • developing strategies to facilitate more ownership of business premises by the business owners themselves (most of whom currently rent), which would have the added benefit of stabilizing the neighborhood.
  • facilitating access to working capital and strengthening borrowing capacity to enable businesses to grow
  • providing business-related training in planning, marketing, computer technology, finance, etc., tailored to the diverse types of businesses
  • improving physical infrastructure and aesthetics
  • creating a public relations campaign aimed at improving the perception of the neighborhood to outsiders
  • continued community-building by Clark and neighborhood organizations
  • initiating research on workforce development

 

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Map of UPP neighborhood
Map of UPP neighborhood. Enlarge.


Businesses on Main StreetBusinesses along Main Street


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