Collaboration, teamwork lead to sharp increase in grants to WMU

Contact: Mark Schwerin

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—An increase in collaboration and multidisciplinary teamwork has led to a sharp rise in grants to Western Michigan University.

Externally funded awards, much of them for research, pushed the grant total for the 2014-15 fiscal year past $35 million, an increase of nearly $8 million over the previous year. The grant total in June, the last month of the University fiscal year, came in at $3.7 million.

The year-end grant total—$35,166,490—was announced at the WMU Board of Trustees October meeting in Grand Rapids. It is roughly $8 million above the $27,179,910 for fiscal year 2013-14. Trustees also learned that grants are off to a brisk start for the 2015-16 fiscal year, with more than $5 million externally funded awards coming in in July and August the first two months of the current year.

"Our office has been encouraging and facilitating large collaborative, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional and multi-national partnerships to successfully receive large grants and to create and support research centers," says Dr. Daniel Litynski, WMU vice president for research. "WMU's outstanding faculty can and do compete and collaborate with the best institutions and experts in the nation in our areas of expertise."

About the grants

A good example of large collaborative efforts funded during the period is a more than $3.2 million First in the World grant from the U.S. Department of Education to use unique opportunities afforded by the Kalamazoo Promise to build an institutional culture focused on increased access and degree completion for underrepresented, underprepared or low-income students.

The grant, co-directed by Drs. Andrea Beach, professor of higher education leadership and director of faculty development at WMU, and Dr. Charles Henderson, a professor with a joint appointment in WMU's Department of Physics and its Mallinson Institute for Science Education, is meant to create and validate through ongoing research, student success programs that can tackle the problem of low rates of degree completion. The goal is to create programs that other universities can adopt, knowing there is sound research data behind the strategies embraced and replicated.

Other grants during the period promoting multidisciplinary collaboration and partnership to create and support research centers include:

  • A $4 million award from the Michigan Department of Community Health to boost autism research and training. The grant, awarded to Drs. Stephanie Peterson and R. Wayne Fuqua, chair and professor of psychology, respectively, is being used to establish the WMU Autism Center of Excellence, increase enrollment in behavior analysis training programs and provide more services to children with autism and their families.
  • Grants of $923,700 and $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation established and support the Transportation Research Center for Livable Communities in cooperation with four other universities. The project is being carried out by a multidisciplinary team of researchers headed by Dr. Jun-Seok Oh, professor of civil and construction engineering and the grant's principal investigator, and Dr. Osama Abudayyeh, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering and associate dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Other key colleagues are from civil and construction engineering, blindness and low vision studies, psychology and geography and urban planning, computer science and special education. Those two grants, along with additional grants of $1.4 million and $469,600 will fund the center through September 2018.
  • A series of grants awarded to CAPE—the University's Center for the Advancement of Printed Electronics, which has been honored for its groundbreaking work in advancing the field of flexible electronic and printed electronic technologies. Recent work headed by Dr. Massood Atashbar, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Dr. Margaret Joyce, professor of chemical and paper engineering, was integrated earlier this year into a new center called the Flexible Electronics Applications and Technology—FEAT—Center. This is now a regional and thematic node which is part of a national $171 million Department of Defense manufacturing innovation initiative known as the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

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