Jackson State University’s Department of English, Modern Foreign Languages and Speech Communication has received a National Science and Foundation (NSF) grant in the amount of $443,178. The funds will go towards establishing a virtual proposal development center (VPDC) to support small and mid-sized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) by providing guidance to faculty at participating institutions in pre-proposal activities, including identification of appropriate funding opportunities and development of research concepts.
“This grant is essentially a pilot project for a virtual, collaborative environment for research proposal development at HBCUs, so it is very exciting that Jackson State was selected to design and test this approach. It really does demonstrate JSU’s leadership among HBCU research institutions,” said Dr. Candis Pizzetta, director, faculty development center, associate professor, Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages.
Pizzetta further stated that the idea for the grant originated from her experience leading years four and five of Jackson State’s 5-year grant writing program – the Academy for Research and Scholarly Engagement.
A U.S. Department of Education funded Title III activity, the Academy trained 107 JSU junior and mid-career faculty in the basics of grant writing and paired them with a faculty mentor to help produce a fundable grant proposal.
As of last summer, 113 proposals were submitted to funding agencies by Academy scholars and 57 additional proposals had been submitted by former Academy scholars who continued their grant-writing after they completed the program. The total funding for research at JSU generated mostly by the junior faculty members is $5, 537,000. The success rate for Academy proposals is 15.9 percent and those submitted by former Academy scholars is 42 percent.
The current grant is designed to translate the lessons of the Academy to an online grant writing program for small and mid-sized HBCUs. The project aligns with the goal of the HBCU undergraduate program to provide assistance to its community to increase faculty research capacity. The project’s potential for transformative impact is based both on its uniqueness as an approach to supporting small, resource-impoverished institutions and on the promise it offers to increase collaborations between scholars at different institutions. The structure of the project will also encourage collaborations across science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
The specific objectives of the VPDC are the following: (1) identifying the specific pre-proposal and proposal preparation needs of the targeted institutions; (2) developing mechanisms for identifying appropriate funding opportunities for the targeted institutions; (3) building a repository of proposal preparation materials; (4) assisting faculty at targeted institutions to develop concepts in line with published solicitations; and (5) establishing mechanisms for self-sustaining proposal development at participating institutions, including peer-mentoring, peer review teams, and mentoring relationships between faculty and sponsored research personnel at participating institutions.
Each cohort of faculty and sponsored-research staff will complete a twelve-week online course and take part in at least one three-day writing retreat. An ongoing evaluation will assess whether or not the VPDC meets the specific needs of the participating institutions.