Proposal Writing Institute celebrates success stories, prepares for new cohort

The Proposal Development division in USU’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies will be accepting college nominations for Proposal Writing Institute candidates through February 17.

The PWI is an annual workshop offered each spring and is designed to assist researchers in learning the tools and techniques to develop high-quality proposals. To maintain the quality of intensive instruction, participation is highly limited, and applications are competitive.

“Since it is conducted in a small group setting (usually three to four participants per group), the institute provides individualized attention where participants work on their proposals during workshop sessions,” said Jerilyn Hansen, manager of proposal development in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

A stipend of $5,000 is provided to participants for their involvement in the PWI. Any research faculty member can apply to be admitted.

The workshop consists of presentations, discussions, and small group activities. Some of the topics covered include finding funding, developing a proposal outline from the RFA/RFP guidelines, creating timelines for proposal development, building budgets based on project tasks, and understanding the proposal submission process.

“The small group exercises that the institute centers around help strengthen the proposals of all participants, but they also provide an opportunity for faculty to learn about the research of others and potentially from future collaborations,” said Hansen.

The PWI also features two panel discussions by experienced faculty researchers, one on collaboration and the other on how agency review panels work.

“Both of these panels are always very highly regarded because of the opportunity they afford junior faculty to hear from and ask questions of successful faculty about topics which are important to understand, but difficult to assemble information on,” said Hansen.

The ultimate goal of the PWI is for participants to leave with a strong proposal ready for submission to an external funding agency, and this is a requirement for successful completion of the workshop.

“It is very rewarding to see faculty members who go through the PWI ultimately obtain funding for their research,” said Hansen. “I think all of the PWI success stories over the years show the skills, knowledge, and support structure that the PWI provides, especially considering how early most of our participants are in their careers.”

Since its establishment in 2009, the Proposal Writing Institute has supported a number of successful participants. Four of the last six USU NSF CAREER Award winners participated in the PWI to prepare their proposals, helping USU to grow to a record twelve active recipients of the NSF’s most prestigious award for new faculty.

“And just last week, we received word that Julie Wolter, associate professor in communicative disorders and deaf education, was awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health,” said Hansen.

Wolter, who developed her proposal in the 2010 PWI, will examine the multiple linguistic influences of different factors in kindergarten and first-grade children with specific language impairments.

As part of the PWI selection process, candidates must complete an application form and submit a summary of their proposal idea, any preliminary work they have already completed, a statement of how the proposed project is expected to support and/or enhance their professional development, potential funders for the project, and provide at least one but no more than two letters of support from their dean, department head and/or research center director.

“We tend to see the most applications from junior faculty who are relatively new to applying for external funding for their research,” said Hansen. “However, we have also had applications from faculty who are farther along in their careers, but who have been either unsuccessful in obtaining funding or have never applied for external funding before.”

Applications are currently being reviewed by the respective dean’s offices, which will rank the top three candidates from their colleges. The top-ranked candidate from each major research college is admitted to the PWI automatically. The remaining seats are filled via an internal Research and Graduate Studies review process of the remaining applications. Applicants will be notified of their status in March.