Coastal Carolina University has been named the recipient of the first Ashby Ward Research Fellowship Award, a $9,375 grant for tourism research from the South Carolina Travel and Tourism Coalition. The purpose of the award, presented Feb. 4 at the S.C. Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism, is to develop and conduct a statewide study on school start dates.
The principal investigator chosen to receive this first-ever award is Jerome Christia, an assistant professor of marketing in Coastal's Wall College of Business. Working with him on the study will be a team of researchers including Coastal professors Aaron Ard and Dennis Rauch. The study will be conducted under the auspices of Coastal's Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism and the Coastal Federal Center for Economic and Community Development.
The S.C. Travel and Tourism Coalition developed the grant award to address the current lack of research on the issue of school start dates. For the past two years, state legislators, educators and tourism leaders have debated the pros and cons of early vs. late school start dates with a view toward maximizing the economic potential of South Carolina's tourism industry while pressing forward on the state mandate to improve education.
To date, there has been no statewide, empirical study of parents' sentiments on the issue. To meet the requirements set forth by the grant, Christia will design and implement a survey that will be mailed to approximately 6,000 parents of public school children, collecting their views on school start/finish dates and year-round vs. traditional school calendars. The survey must be carefully designed to ensure a high level of objectivity and accuracy. The results will be analyzed and compiled in a written report with detailed tabulated results, which Christia hopes to accomplish by the fall of 2004.
"We view this as an opportunity to obtain in valuable information on a subject that is extremely important, not only to the tourism industry, but to the state of South Carolina as a whole," said Gary Loftus, director of the Coastal Federal Center for Economic and Community Development at Coastal.
"The study will yield a wealth of solid data that will be invaluable in this discussion," said Taylor Damonte, director of Coastal's Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism. "When the survey is completed, the public and the officials who will be making decisions will have viable information on which to base their actions."
The research fellowship was named for the late Ashby Ward, longtime president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.