OSPR continues to stimulate new efforts and bring new opportunities to GSU, and to build a supportive environment for faculty and staff who venture into the world of extramural funding.
OSPR: Small, but Mighty
A university’s ability to provide excellent outcomes for its students depends on a number of factors—and money is a major factor. A university that employs energetic and creative people who can expand the available financial resources significantly improves its outlook.
The money that a university receives that doesn’t come from students, alumni, or endowments is called extramural (grant) funding. Some of this funding is relatively standard—for example, the federal money that subsidizes student work-study jobs—and the rest is awarded through grants, which are fiercely competitive.
Jennifer Morehead Farmer and her colleagues Ebony Jones and Fatmah Tommalieh staff the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research (OSPR) at Governors State University (GSU) and are responsible for bringing in millions of dollars to advance GSU’s mission. Morehead Farmer is the director of the OSPR, and while she is a nice person, when it comes to the battle for extramural funding she is forceful and persistent.
Some of the OSPR’s work is pure research smarts—Morehead Farmer is a Certified Research Administrator—and some of it is providing workshops and training opportunities for the GSU community to enhance knowledge and provide tools that will increase the number of externally funded projects.
Once a grant is awarded, there are typically tracking and follow-up administration tasks that need to be done, and OSPR can help with that. Sometimes it’s a matter of convincing GSU professors—who are always busy and prioritize teaching—to spend time and effort on a funding application with no guarantee of success, and then to reapply, and reapply again.
Dr. Catherine Balthazar and Dr. Rupert Evans received $716,000 from the National Institutes of Health to enhance the infrastructure capabilities of GSU and the University of Illinois at Chicago for conducting cancer health inequities research. Balthazar says, “Partnering with OSPR helped me meet my goals and deadlines, and keep moving forward. They provide a realistic perspective, a network of peers, and very practical advice. They have been steadily helping us understand things we didn’t even know we needed to know.”
I really believe that as faculty, our full potential as scholars and teachers cannot be realized without the kinds of financial resources that come from extramural funding.
Balthazar has seen both sides of the grant-seeking endeavor: the disappointment of being declined and the satisfaction of being accepted. She says, “I really believe that as faculty, our full potential as scholars and teachers cannot be realized without the kinds of financial resources that some from extramural funding. Whether the emphasis is on research, training, or high-quality education, I hope more of my colleagues will be exploring opportunities to apply.”
Other extramural funding provides financial assistance that is beyond the scope of already-maximized financial aid. Working with Dr. Rebecca Wojcik from the College of Health and Human Services and Dr. Shannon Dermer from the College of Education, OSPR succeeded in securing nearly $5 million in scholarship and grant money for students from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Without these scholarship funds I would still be taking one class per semester indefinitely.
The students who benefited from this assistance have been eloquent in their appreciation. Karla Canady, pursuing a Master’s in Marital and Family Counseling, says, “Without these scholarship funds, I would still be taking one class per semester indefinitely.” Aja Streets, who plans to be a school counselor after receiving her MA, illustrates the reality of studying under hardship when she says, “No more borrowing books or skipping buying books in the first place!” Ultimately it comes down to the simple eloquence of Toyia Washington, earning a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health, who says, “I would not have a chance of graduating without this scholarship.”
Jennifer Morehead Farmer expects that obtaining extramural (grant) funding will continue to be highly competitive and challenging. She stresses that the OSPR is here to support and assist those looking for funding and those who are ready to submit. While the OSPR is a small team, they are prepared to be responsive and provide assistance in many ways. “We are always willing to work with those who are interested in investing their time,” Morehead Farmer says. “We will work with them to help find funding opportunities, read the guidelines, prepare budgets, and navigate the sponsor electronic systems. The OSPR also works with the other offices on campus like Financial Services and Human Resources to ensure that, after an award has been received, everything goes smoothly, including reporting, to allow the researcher to be successful with his or her project.”