about cerc

Founded in 2013 by a small group of educators, the Catalyst Educational Research Center, Inc. (CERC) has conducted original and groundbreaking research in developmental education that is delivered online. In 2015, CERC accepted the invitation of the Elijah Glenn Ward Family Foundation to become the Foundation’s research division. CERC’s hypothesis is that while all communities have the capacity to be healthy and whole, some face very real and seemingly insurmountable economic and social challenges that can be addressed through the production of pertinent data that is based upon research.

The goal of CERC, working with the Ward Foundation and its programs, is to leverage the voices and resources of the Foundation through research that brings about permanent change in low-income, minority, South Side Chicago communities. The goal of our research is to provide community stakeholders and policymakers with the evidence that they need to enact significant change in their communities.

mission & purpose

The mission of CERC is to conduct research and to sponsor action that provides social and educational opportunity for low-income, minority and / or at-risk men, women and children.

The purpose of CERC is to conduct basic and applied research. Research at CERC is designed to employ rigorous methodologies to support a specific inquiry. The work that we do at CERC is intended not merely to educate or to inform, but to serve as a catalyst, triggering the action needed to call forth meaningful and lasting change through policy and through the collaborative efforts of stakeholders.


In Fall 2014, CERC conducted a highly-successful pilot research project that delivered an exclusively-online suite of developmental education (i.e., college-readiness) courses to 500 students concurrently enrolled in traditional, face-to-face course work at several community colleges in the Chicago metropolitan area. This study addressed an area of higher education that previously had not been investigated by researchers: the exclusively online delivery of a suite of college-readiness courses.

This research is significant because (1) the issue and challenge of college readiness is vaster in scope than our society currently realizes and (2) the future of higher education lies in innovative and effective online programming and delivery.

In addition, each year for decades to come, a majority of those Americans attending college, whether for degrees or certificates, will require developmental education to be prepared for their educational programs of choice or for productive contribution in the workplace.

CERC is engaged in pragmatic, future-oriented research that will lead the way in more innovative approaches to education and enlightened social programming for our target communities through producing data that will allow for a determination of best practices. Pending research activity at CERC involves the collection and analysis of data from Ward Foundation programs currently operating at the Sanders Center.