Joyce Bell has worked in University Research Administration for more than 30 years — the past 10 at Stanislaus State — and for the first time, she shared her knowledge and ideas with colleagues from across the country and globe.
Bell, director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and her colleague Ashely Reeves Huckaby, a grant and contract specialist, joined Dean of Graduate Studies and Research Haley Ye, in delivering a one-hour presentation at the recent conference of the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA).
Together they shared the experience of creating their year-long Faculty Grant Writing Cohort to help faculty understand how to find, pursue and write successful grant proposals.
“When Joyce came up with the idea to present at the national conference, I was a little bit scared,” Reeves Huckaby admits. “I had been there as an attendee before and saw the scale of it. I think that the fact it was a collaborative presentation helped. When we were done it felt wonderful.”
“It really was exhilarating,” Bell agreed. “I felt it was so well received by the group. We are a smaller University, but we’re doing cool and amazing work here and that shone through.
“Presenting was great, but taking the time to prepare the presentation and go through and reflect on this cool program showed us how amazing it was that we were able to pull this off together. I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”
The pair found time in their schedules to put together and lead year-long weekly meetings to guide faculty through the process of finding grant opportunities and writing strong proposals.
A first cohort of 17 faculty members responded to the open call for participants. They committed to weekly 90-minute sessions that started in January 2022. The intensive phase of writing their grant proposals occurred during the summer and concluded just before finals began in December 2022.
The result was seven awards worth $972,950 with three more pending. A few have yet to submit their proposals.
- Joyce Bell, director of Office of Research and Sponsored Programs
Bell and Reeves Huckaby turned their work into the conference presentation that played on the theme of “The Real World” reality show, of which Bell was a fan.
They described “The Real World of Grant Writing: A Faculty Grant Writing Cohort Experience,” as “... the true story of 17 faculty picked to be in a Grant Writing Cohort and we found out what happens when faculty stop being scared and start getting real…about grant writing.”
With encouragement from Ye to expand the course from an intensive summer program offered at other California State University campuses offer into a year-long program, and financial support from Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rich Ogle with money from Facilities and Administration funds the office received from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), the two went to work.
“Our main focus was to get faculty familiar with our office and the services that we offer and that we’re here to help them. I wanted to give them a strong background of how to get started and quell any fears,” said Bell, who earned a master’s in research administration from Johns Hopkins University just before COVID struck. “So much is overwhelming thinking about writing a grant proposal, and there are so many pieces. We wanted to break it down into manageable, bite-size pieces.
“The first part of that was getting them connected so they knew the opportunities out there.”
That’s among the many things Reeves Huckaby, a Stan State graduate (B.A. in History, 2014, M.A in History, 2016), researches for them.
She and Bell then walk faculty members through the grant-writing process. By offering the class, they can teach more faculty at one time. In developing the course, they covered every aspect of successful grant writing, including creating a compelling narrative.
“They’re used to writing for journals, so it’s all data focused, goal oriented,” Bell said. “We tell our faculty a reviewer is going to read your 15-page, single-spaced proposal. They're going to have a stack of them to read. It’s really about capturing the reviewer’s attention right away and holding it for as long as possible throughout the narrative while hitting all the required pieces they’re going to be evaluating.”
Among the initial writing cohort were eight assistant professors, six associate professors and four full professors. The current cohort, which started in January and will conclude in December, consists of 11 assistant professors in their first year at Stan State.
They are learning about the grant-writing process, as no doubt, are professors across the country and other parts of the world, thanks to the presentation at the conference.