Western tops peers in grants

Mai Hoang

With a gloomy budget outlook, Western faculty and staff are not waiting for the state to provide money for research, service and teaching projects.

They are looking for – and finding – money on their own.

The Office of Sponsored Programs reported that Western faculty and staff received $29.8 million in grants in the 2002-03 fiscal year.

That represents a 20 percent increase.

The latest figure puts Western at the top of its benchmark universities – schools of comparable size to Western. Western ranks second of nine universities that reported grant earnings for the 2002-03 fiscal year.

The University of North Carolina-Greensboro, with $30.7 million in grants, was the only benchmark university ahead of Western.

“In the last three or four years, more of our faculty come in knowing as part of their professional development they will have to get grant money,” said Phil Myers, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Myers said faculty and staff have been more aggressive in submitting grant proposals.

In 2003 Western faculty asked for $69.9 million in grants, double the amount asked for in 2002. Out of 260 faculty and staff who submitted grants proposals, 120 received awards.

Provost Barbara Burch said one of Western’s goals in the strategic plan is to increase grants.

“Many of those things that we do through grants contribute to the overall quality of our work and thus enhance our reputation,” Burch said. “The mere fact that you received a grant suggests that you have some quality work that you’re doing.”

Dianne Bazell, assistant vice president for academic affairs for the Council on Post-Secondary Education, said Western has been successful in using its existing resources creatively to run its programs.

That makes it attractive to potential grant recipients, she said.

Western has been aggressive in seeking public and private funds, Bazell said. Any funding that Kentucky universities and colleges can earn on their own is crucial.

“Our public resources are tight, we have a lot of other things the state has to support – the laundry list is a long one,” she said. “The more our institutions can take the initiative in procuring outside funding, the better the post-secondary system and the entire state will be.”

Although most of the colleges at Western earned grants in 2003, most went to the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, which got $20 million in grants.

One of the larger grants Western has gotten is from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Psychology professor Katrina Phelps received $500,000 last year and $1 million this year to run A Local Information and Volunteer Exchange center, or ALIVE, a collaboration of several community organizations that offers services for troubled teenagers.

“Working with community councils and boards has encouraged me to get more involved in community and university partnership and build more collaborative initiatives,” Phelps said.

She said the Office of Sponsored Programs was involved in every point of the grant process from the submission of the grant proposal to reporting on the use of the funds.

“Surely, I would not be able to submit my grants without them doing the necessary forms and assurances,” Phelps said.

Myers said in the future there will be attempts to get more grants for public health, special education research and humanities programs such as journalism and folk studies.

Burch said President Gary Ransdell and Chief Financial Officer Ann Mead agreed to increase funds for incentives that would encourage faculty to apply for grants. Western faculty and staff could use funds for travel, writing or other activities that required for a grant proposal.

“They give our faculty the capability to identify and solve problems,” Ransdell said. “That’s what we’re about as a university.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]