Inside USD

Faculty Celebrated for External Funding Efforts

Monday, April 28, 2014

Two appreciative words everyone longs to hear are, simply, “Thank You.”

These meaningful words were delivered often when University of San Diego President Mary E. Lyons, PhD, spoke at the inaugural USD Celebration of Scholarly and Creative Achievements event on April 23 at Salomon Hall.

Lyons, USD’s Office of Foundation Relations and Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) organized this event to show their appreciation to those who’ve sought external funding to support programming, research, and creative and scholarly activities. They’ve demonstrated the persistence that’s required and it shows that they recognize the importance of it to enhance the reputation of the university and provide tangible experiences for students.

“USD is no longer just a teaching institution,” Lyons said. “Our students are demanding research experience. USD students want to emulate the faculty we honor here today. An excellent example of this is through our annual Creative Collaborations [undergraduate research conference] and the number of students who participate. For this, I thank you.”

The consensus in the higher education funding field is that there is a general lack of recognition for those who apply for funding to create opportunities at those institutions and do so on top of their everyday duties.

“It takes so much time and effort; it’s a tough, difficult process and very competitive,” said OSP Director Traci Merrill. “We wanted to celebrate that effort.”

Last week’s event was visibly welcomed as deans and faculty members from a cross-section of campus academic units were in attendance.

In 2013, USD faculty and administrators submitted more than 140 individual proposals. An ongoing slideshow praised those who applied for funding, where they applied and for how much they’d sought. Some had submitted multiple proposals.

Over the past five years, according to Merrill, members of the USD community have submitted an average of 95 grant proposals to request over $26 million each year. Those who had done so in the past year had requested more than $31 million, an average request of approximately $323,000 per proposal.

The proposals covered a wide range of project topics and disciplines. The single funder receiving the most proposals was the National Science Foundation (NSF) for federal aid and 85 grant proposals were sent to foundations across the country.

“These funds provide important support for faculty scholarship and for new campus initiatives,” Lyons said. “Most importantly, though, is the support for our students.”

A large amount of successfully secured faculty external grant funds was spent on undergraduate student research stipends. Considerable funding was applied to graduate student tuition and scholarships. Furthermore, many faculty research projects included a significant focus on student mentoring and development.

External funding is critical to furthering existing research, forging new creative avenues and to help establish new faculty members. To tackle and meet these challenges, Foundation Relations and OSP staff members work together to lend visible and vital support to USD’s applicants.

Staff members from both offices have been holding monthly meetings to improve collaboration efforts. The early results from this exchange are taking shape, especially for new faculty. Five of the 28 new faculty members at USD have submitted a grant proposal and four did it within the first six months.

The offices’ collaboration has also been productive bringing together faculty members from different schools on campus with similar research interests for collaborative research discussions.

Merrill, who was named OSP director earlier this academic year, has added new resource tools such as Cayuse and Pivot and OSP staff member Michelle Totoris has been instrumental in coordinating collaborative proposal efforts with the faculty.

“We really love our jobs, and appreciate the chance to work with everybody,” Merrill said. “It’s so wonderful to recognize the faculty for their scholarly activities because they’re going above and beyond what they already do. They’re willing to [submit proposals] because it helps the students. And students want to do research, especially after they witness a faculty member doing it. Our faculty members are great role models.”

Lyons echoed Merrill’s observation to faculty who were in attendance. “They want to be like you.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Photos courtesy of  Bruce Edwards, Traci Merrill (except top photo)

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