WMU News

Grant total tops $31 million for new all-time record

July 24, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University has closed the books on a record year of grants that saw external awards to the University soar past the $31 million mark for the first time in history.

June grants to the University of $2,493,249 brought the total received by the June 30 close of the 1997-98 fiscal year to $31,028,830. That amount surpasses the 1996-97 previous record grant total of $25, 019,439 by more than $6 million, an increase of 24 percent. The figures were reported to the WMU Board of Trustees at its July 24 meeting.

Dr. Donald E. Thompson, WMU vice president for research, says the $6 million increase is the largest single-year jump in grant totals in the University's history. He characterizes the huge increase as one that is unusual for its size, but not unexpected.

"It's not an accident," Thompson says. "We have, for the last 10 years, been on an upward spiral, doing better and better and building our base. This happens right now because so many good things came together this year, especially in the sciences, engineering and aviation, but its something we certainly expect to happen."

Thompson points to a number of key components to the new grant total and predicts that development work that has been going on over the past year will lead to more funding increases in the future from a variety of sources.

"We're developing the sciences much more strongly and that bodes well for federal funding opportunities," Thompson says. "We've been developing a larger cadre of faculty in the sciences who are successful in securing grants. We also have a new science building that, when complete, will support an even broader base of research."

The 1997-98 grant total included more than $16.5 million in awards to the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with more than $9 million of that figure coming to the School of Aviation Sciences in the form of pilot-training contracts with international airlines and money from the City of Battle Creek and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to enhance facilities and programs.

That college also was successful in securing funding from the corporate world with such developments as a recently announced award for nearly $3 million from Moldflow Corp. of Lexington, Mass. That award will be used to set up a computer design center on campus that Moldflow can use for corporate training and faculty and students can use for research and instruction.

The arrangement and others like it, Thompson says, enhances the University's reputation in the applied sciences and will enable faculty members to build research capacity on the cutting edge of their discipline. Ultimately, that capability will lead to even greater research opportunities.

Thompson says grant activity in areas targeted last year for an infusion of funds through the University's jump-start initiative also is increasing. The jump-start funds provide research support in areas in which University researchers have potential for increased federal funding. Thompson expects that initiative to result in major gains in future years in such fields as chemistry, biological sciences and the health and human service fields.

"We have positioned ourselves nicely to get federal funding in a variety of fields," Thompson says. "We have enough players in enough areas that we can be very successful in the federal arena. I really have to credit our faculty's energy and competence in getting to this level as well as my staff's work in helping faculty follow through on their proposals."

Thompson says he's especially pleased with the development of a core group of young faculty members who have particular expertise in research and development. Those young faculty members have enjoyed a high success rate in securing funding for their proposals.

Nearly 100 young faculty members have taken part over the past five years in a WMU Research and Development Award program designed to hone their grant-seeking skills. Of that number, 75 percent have submitted proposals for funding and 60 percent of those have been successful, attracting about $5 million in grants.

Thompson's report to the board also included information on a number of grants received during the final month of the fiscal year.

Major grants received in June included a $212,117 award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the College of Health and Human Services to support the eighth year of WMU's Rural Health Education program. The program provides interdisciplinary training to students interested in rural health care careers.

Also reported to the board was a $478,152 award from Kalamazoo County Community Mental Health Services to WMU's Center for Developmentally Disabled Adults. The funding will support the center's continued work with the county's population of developmentally disabled adults aged 26 and up. The center offers daily living, communication and social skill services at four sites to more than 130 county residents.

A $364,481 award from the U.S. Department of Education to the Division of Minority Affairs will fund the 32nd year of operation at WMU for Upward Bound. The pre-college program provides academic, social and cultural support to high school students from disadvantaged families to help them prepare for success in college.

Also reported was a $349,983 award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for a project directed by Dr. Bernardine Lacey, director of WMU's School of Nursing. The community-wide effort will focus on increasing the number of minority students who enter the medical and allied health fields and will use a number of student development and curricular enrichment activities to accomplish the goal.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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