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Future Funded Faculty Program College of the Liberal Arts Penn State University

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External funding is an important resource that supports faculty research, contributes to graduate education, and funds departmental and college activities that enhance the quality of individual and collective research programs. External funding is important to both individuals and departments aspiring to positions of national leadership. Success in external funding, therefore, allows faculty members, departments, and the college to achieve strategic objectives.

We are fortunate in the College of the Liberal Arts to have many successful grant-active faculty. To continue and expand on this record of success, we must ensure that junior faculty enter the ranks of grant-funded researchers in ways that support their research agendas, promote the well-being of their department and the college, and contribute to the research mission of the university.

To achieve these goals, in 2012, the College created the Future Funded Faculty Program (FFF). Following are key elements of the program. 

Objective 

Accelerate the external funding success of faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Aim 1: Promote participants’ knowledge of issues related to successful submissions of proposals for external funding.

Aim 2: Provide a context for shared goal setting and benchmarking to encourage progress toward a successful grant submission.

Aim 3: Create opportunities for participants to benefit from the expertise and mentorship of successful grant-active faculty.

Aim 4: Optimize the deployment of College resources for activities that advance the preparation of a grant proposal submission or resubmission.

 

Participants

Participants are selected in consultation with department heads. The exemplar participant is an advanced assistant professor or early associate professor who has not yet received external funding as a PI, but who shows potential for doing so. The full range of participants may include individuals who have never submitted a proposal; those who have submitted proposals, have had funding as a co-investigator, or have proposals pending; and those who have had prior funding as a PI or co-investigator. The overarching goal is to identify highly motivated faculty for whom participation in the program will accelerate progress toward a successful submission, over and above the support already available to that individual.

 

Activities (Aims 1 & 2)

FFF has meetings and activities scheduled on a regular basis (approximately once every 1-2 months during the academic year). The program is designed to run for two years to ensure a sufficient period of support for proposal development. Participation in any particular session is not mandatory, and some participants may “graduate” prior to the two-year mark in that continued involvement no longer adds value to their grant-seeking efforts. The topics addressed within the program are developed in response to the specific needs of the cohort, and a variety of meeting formats are employed. For example, some meetings provide an opportunity to discuss participants’ actions related to external funding; questions, problems, or issues that were encountered; and concrete goal setting. Some sessions are devoted to topics of general interest to faculty seeking funding (e.g., how to find funding sources, services provided within the Grants and Contracts Office; best practices employed by successful grant-active faculty; strategies for collaboration; University resources, such as the Survey Research Center and the U.S. Census Data Center). When appropriate, FFF participants are partitioned into sub-groups, so that more specific information can be provided to individuals with overlapping interests. Where possible, the group’s agenda takes advantage of informational sessions provided by other units on campus, such as the SSRI and other centers and institutes. The guiding principle in designing the agenda for the FFF sessions is to collaborate with participants to address issues most relevant to their continuing progress.

 

Mentoring Opportunities (Aim 3)

The FFF program facilitates opportunities for mentoring from successful grant-active faculty. Participants are not assigned a particular mentor. Rather, mentoring teams including 2-3 faculty are instantiated as needed to provide feedback on specific aspects of a proposal’s development. Three types of meetings are available; however, this structure is intended to be flexible and will be adapted to the particular needs of participants.

Aims and Agencies: A participant who is working through specific aims for a project or deciding among funding agencies to target is provided the opportunity to meet with a group of 2-3 faculty members who have experience with the various agencies under consideration. A meeting with this focus might be repeated as aims and agencies evolve.

Building Blocks: Participants are provided opportunities to receive feedback from 2-3 faculty mentors on a proposed research plan; the content of these discussions can address the substantive issues involved and/or logistical and budgetary issues to resolve. The mentoring team may or may not be the same faculty that provided feedback on specific aims and agencies; the goal is to identify mentors with the most relevant expertise for a given project at this stage. Again, meetings at this stage can be repeated and refocused as necessary, and they may also be skipped if they are not needed.

Capstone Critique:  Participants are provided opportunities to receive feedback from 2-3 faculty mentors on a draft proposal. In most instances, mentors are drawn from faculty outside the participant’s home department, with the overarching goal of identifying appropriate experts who can provide useful feedback. Once again, the mentors consulted may or may not have provided feedback previously; emphasis will be placed on obtaining the most relevant expert advice for this phase of proposal development.

Mentors are drawn from a group of experienced and successful grant-active faculty. As noted, mentors are not asked to assume responsibility for specific participants. Rather, mentors convey a willingness to be contacted for occasional meetings with FFF participants to discuss a proposal under development. Mentors agree to read materials in advance of the meeting (ranging from a list of specific aims to a draft proposal). Mentors are also invited to occasional gatherings with the FFF cohort (i.e., an introductory meeting and an end of year reception), and individual mentors may also be invited to participate in meetings of the FFF cohort, as relevant to the agenda for a particular meeting.

Available Resources (Aim 4)

To support their grant-seeking efforts, participants have access to resources provided by the College’s Research Office, as appropriate. For example, the Research Office may provide seed funding for pilot work that will enhance the success of a grant submission or resubmission. In addition, the Research Office will provide resources to secure external pre-reviews of grant submissions. For interdisciplinary collaborative projects, the program will facilitate applications to the SSRI or CYFC for Level 1 or Level 2 funding. In these and other ways, participants will have access to resources to support activities that advance a grant proposal submission or resubmission.

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