Will Northwest Indiana residents ever buy into the proposed rechristening of the Region as the “South Shore”? Professor Subir Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D., of the Indiana University Northwest School of Business and Economics, plans to undertake a marketing study that will assess whether such a re-branding effort could be successful here and, if so, how such a campaign should be carried out.
Bandyopadhyay’s study, which he will conduct in cooperation with the Quality of Life Council, will be funded by a $4,200 grant from the IU Northwest Center for Regional Excellence. It was one of five fellowship grants awarded Dec. 6 by the CRE’s Sustainable Regional Vitality Board, which annually provides financial backing for research projects of significance to Northwest Indiana. This year’s grants total $17,300.
Bandyopadhyay, who teaches marketing at IU Northwest, said his study will gauge current perceptions of the term “Northwest Indiana” and determine whether the phrase inspires predominantly positive or negative associations with the project’s participants. If the connotations prove to be mostly negative, he said, then a switch to another moniker might be preferable.
Bandyopadhyay’s study also will research how name-change advocates might apply product-branding strategies to their efforts at re-branding a locale like Northwest Indiana. Therein lies the academic value of the name-change project to a researcher like Bandyopadhyay, whose speciality is brand management.
“It’s very much a marketing strategy issue,” he said.
Bandyopadhyay, who lives in Munster, has taught at IU Northwest for six years. As a relative newcomer to Northwest Indiana, he goes into the re-branding study with relatively little bias for or against the Region’s current label. He knows that others in the area have well-defined opinions on the matter.
“I was informed that this is a controversial issue,” Bandyopadhyay said. “Many people are pessimistic and don’t believe that something like this could be achieved. But others are optimistic. Already, the Northern Indiana Arts Association has changed its name to South Shore Arts. We have the South Shore Railroad. There are very visible entities that have changed over.”
The “South Shore” marketing study is an outgrowth of discussions by QLC members that began more than a year ago. Dan Lowery, who at the time was the QLC’s executive director, pointed to the Northwest Indiana Forum’s South Shore Poster Series, which began in 1997, as the impetus for the “South Shore” tag. He said the phrase seemed to sum up, in a positive way, much of what defines the Region.
“It emphasizes our relationship with Chicago, the best aspects of our industrial heritage, our environmental heritage, the Dunes, everything,” said Lowery, who is the vice chancellor for academic affairs at Calumet College of St. Joseph. “It seems like something that we could all embrace. And with some of the things that are happening now, with the Marquette Plan and the (Regional Development Authority) and so forth, it seems like the right time to take a look at it.”
The Marquette Plan is a multimillion-dollar lakeshore development project that seeks to transform up to 75 percent of the Lake Michigan shoreline between Whiting and Portage into contiguous public-use land featuring bike trails and other recreational amenities. It has been supported by the various communities involved and by U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-1st), who has sought federal funding for the project.
Lowery said that the QLC notified the Northwest Indiana higher education community of its interest in supporting a marketing study, and that he personally brought the project to Bandyopadhyay’s attention.
“I actually went out and asked Subir to do it,” said Lowery, who was formerly a professor at the IU Northwest School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “I have worked with him in the past, and I have tremendous respect for his work.”
Bandyopadhyay said he saw the practical applications of such a project for Northwest Indiana and for his own research. After securing the QLC’s commitment to support the project logistically, he put together his proposal for the CRE grant. While Bandyopadhyay said he expects to have undergraduate students participate in the project, he emphasized that it’s not intended to be a classroom exercise; rather, it will be a comprehensive marketing study featuring detailed research on whether a name change for Northwest Indiana is desirable or plausible.
“This is a very serious project,” Bandyopadhyay said. “I am willing to take this on, but not in any casual way. I need complete support from the QLC in terms of putting together the focus groups.”
QLC chairman Guadalupe Valtierra confirmed that the council is supportive of Bandyopadhyay’s marketing study and is willing to assist the researcher in establishing focus groups and carrying out other logistical functions.
“I think it’s good that somebody is going to be asking those questions,” said Valtierra, who is chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest. “How do we identify ourselves? How are we seen by others? Will one name create a more positive image than another name? These are all issues we’re going to be looking at. That’s what the study is going to tell us, what’s in people’s minds about this.”
Whatever the results of Bandyopadhyay’s research, the conversation it’s bound to generate among Northwest Indiana residents and community leaders will be a worthwhile end all its own, according to Lowery.
“Just the discussion is a good thing,” he said. “It really taps into the idea of our identity and how we see ourselves.”
Bandyopadhyay said he expects to complete the study by July 2007.
Other projects awarded grants by the CRE’s Sustainable Regional Vitality Board included:
A $2,500 grant to Charlotte Reed, Ph.D., executive director of the IU Northwest Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, to form a regional consortium on service learning involving six regional institutions of higher learning;
A $4,800 grant to Julie Peller, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, for a study entitled “Chemical Analyses of Oriental Bittersweet and Native Bittersweet Collected along the Indiana Dunes”;
A $2,000 grant for Profs. Bogdan Vajiac, Ph.D., Vesna Kilibarda, Ph.D., and Henry Wyzinski, Ph.D., of the math department, to collaboratively research and implement the project “Interventions to Improve Students’ Retention in M118 Finite Mathematics Class,” which will include 11 undergraduate students;
A $3,800 grant for Profs. Yonghee Suh, Ph.D., and Judy Donovan, Ph.D., of the School of Education, partnered with Timothy Sutherland, interim director of the Library Conference and Data Analysis Center, to study the effect of using GIS in PK-12 public schools in Northwest Indiana, a project involving student-learning opportunities.
Patricia Lundberg, executive director of the CRE, said the sponsored projects will positively impact health and human services, the environment, education, and the business community in Northwest Indiana. She noted that each of the projects will involve IU Northwest students to varying degrees, thereby providing the kind of experiential learning that is essential to a successful education.
The CRE seeks to foster learning, scholarship, discovery, creativity, and service in the areas of cultural discovery and learning and sustainable regional vitality, in collaboration with the communities the University serves across the seven-county Northwest Indiana region. Financial backing for the 2006-07 fellowship grants came from the Trustees’ Commitment to Excellence Funds.