Thursday, April 14, 2011

Faculty and funding at the teaching institution

Grant writing. We are hearing more and more about grant writing and the need for faculty to write, seek, and ultimately acquire funds for their institutions. It is especially important as we move through today's (increasingly depressing and nearly overwhelming) higher education fiscal cuts. But is finding funding at a teaching institution really possible? Grant writing and teaching can seem like competing goals for our time.

That balance issue creeps in teaching institutions we are often teaching more classes than our research institution counterparts. Our full load is a 4/4 load with a general expectation that we may need you to pick up an overload (a 5th course) if enrollment demands it. Now we are compensated for that overload, but often times we end up with heavy teaching loads and, for many like myself, a full load (3) in every summer. Nearly every year, I have a 5/4/3 or a 5/5/3 teaching load.

This isn't a complaint. I chose a teaching institution very purposefully. I am an educator. I want to be in the class and I want that to be my primary purpose at my institution. But...uh oh!...Can you hear that?...

tick tock...Tick Tock... TiCk ToCk...TICK TOCK... TENURE CLOCK!

As I submit my retention packet each year, I feel the need to fill each category as much as possible and grant writing is one of those categories. The best of the best seek funding AND manage teaching. It isn't an easy balance at a teaching institution as grant writing takes TIME. I know many of us are teaching full or overly full loads on a constant basis and struggle to find time to write for funding. Here are a few things that I have uncovered to help me continually seek new funding opportunities:
  1. Join listservs for your professional organizations. Check out their "emerging scholars" or "new/junior faculty" areas for funding specific to your first several years in academia. These are great places to start grant writing.
  2. Set up "search alerts" for funding postings. For example, Google offers a great option to set up alerts that come to your in-box whenever key words are found together.
  3. Visit regularly. As a true nerd, I try to check it out every couple of weeks and, of course, have it in my calendar.
  4. Know your field. As a scholar outside of the sciences I find myself easily frustrated at the constant emails for science-based funding. Log on to the National Endowment for the Humanities web site and cruise around their posts.
  5. Check your state's funding! This is a great way to tie in some local/regional projects with the research you are doing. Your Board of Regents can also provide a great path to funding opportunities.
  6. Cross your campus: Check out the opportunities in other disciplines and make friends with the science and math folks (if you're in the non-science fields). Our science and math faculty are very good at reaching out and offering opportunities for collaboration. 
  7. Seek mentor opportunities with those on campus who have received funding. A junior faculty member at our institution walked up to a senior faculty member who has received a LOT of funding and said, "I want to do that, too" (more or less) and they are now working closely together on several projects. It might be intimidating, but the rewards can be very worth the few moments of discomfort you may feel for putting yourself out there.
  8. Be hungry? I was recently, to my amusement, described as a "hardworking, hungry junior faculty member" and that description did not offend me. In fact, I asked the speaker to identify others on campus who fit that same description and then contacted some of those folks to partner up and collaborate.
  9. Remember, many institutions have a grants office that puts on FREE training seminars and who wants you to get funded. Seek them out, become friends early in your career. You will NEED good working relationships with that office.
  10. Put your money where your mouth is. If you make promises and state you are going to do something with anyone on campus, then be sure you've planned and prioritized that endeavor. The people at your institution can be your best bet for not only an enjoyable ride through the tenure track (side note: can we apply the word "enjoyable" to the tenure track?!), but a productive ride, too!
Hopefully these little tips are useful and the next issue you have is finding space for your grant-funded equipment in your tiny office or analyzing all of the data in your funded research project. 

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