The ‘Write’ Stuff: College of Ed enrolls eight faculty in Hanover Grant Academy

Top: Natalie Andzik, Ximena Burgin. Second row: Rachel Donegan, Lindsay Harris. Third row: Chris Hill, Xiaodan Hu. Bottom: David Paige, Emerson Sebastião.
Top: Natalie Andzik, Ximena Burgin.
Second row: Rachel Donegan, Lindsay Harris.
Third row: Chris Hill, Xiaodan Hu.
Bottom: David Paige, Emerson Sebastião.

Eight NIU College of Education faculty are participating in the Hanover Grant Academy to advance their skills in securing external funding for their scholarship.

The academy is a service of Arlington, Va.-based Hanover Research, a global research and analytics firm that delivers market intelligence to more than 1,000 corporate and education sectors.

Natalie Andzik, Ximena Burgin, Rachel Donegan, Lindsay Harris, Chris Hill, Xiaodan Hu, David Paige and Emerson Sebastião work with the Hanover team for a year, 11 months of which are devoted to group grantsmanship workshops and one-on-one support.

Bill Pitney, associate dean for Research, Resources and Innovation, says the program is helping “to identify emerging grant writers in our college to receive training and individualized support to enhance their grantsmanship and develop research proposals that are impactful.”

“Research advancement is a strategic priority for our college,” Pitney says.

“We saw positive outcomes at another college after they worked with Hanover; we recognized the value of Hanover’s Grant Academy program and believed it would be a good step to take to advance our research efforts,” he adds. “I’ve found the personnel at Hanover very competent and collaborative, and very willing to work with us in a positive manner.”

Erin Bangsboll, grants content director at Hanover Research, says the goal is to support research funding at NIU while helping to “kick-start faculty’s research funding careers by instilling knowledge and expertise that they can then pass on and cultivate for years to come.”

Faculty in the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology comprised a Hanover Grant Academy cohort in 2020, Bangsboll adds: One participant received a National Institutes of Health Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award worth $430,000 with Hanover’s support.

She expects great results from Gabel, Graham and Anderson halls.

“Some of the College of Education faculty cohort members do not yet have much experience with grant-writing. This means more potential!” Bangsboll says. “Still others are interested in expanding beyond internal grants and small grants to build competitive portfolios, and we appreciate the opportunity to help strategically develop grant-seeking plans that stretch beyond 2022.”

Hanover tailors each Grant Academy to the cohort, which allows for targeted investment in high-potential faculty and creates an accountability framework oriented toward meaningful outcomes for faculty participation.

Erin Bangsboll
Erin Bangsboll

The program includes grantsmanship trainings, consultations with grants experts to create individual development plans, research-prospecting for right-fit opportunities and support in proposal-writing.

  • After consulting with the Hanover team regarding interests and experience, each faculty members receives an individual development plan.
  • Faculty participate in grantsmanship trainings designed to develop their grant-seeking skills, in alignment with targeted needs and interest areas.
  • Faculty receive guidance on best-fit grant opportunities for their projects and advice on achieving strong alignment with funders.
  • Hanover provides proposal critique and revision support to faculty proposals to improve their quality and competitiveness

Sebastião, an assistant professor of Exercise Science in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE), appreciates the opportunity.

“When I received the email about the Hanover-COE initiative, I immediately realized that this was my chance to improve my writing skills and to gain knowledge on how to write grants for federal agencies such as the highly competitive National Institutes of Health,” Sebastião says. “Participating in this year-long program will refine my skills but it will also teach me a lot of the ins and outs of grant-writing.”

Learning how to write competitive grants is “a must-have skill in academia,” he adds.

“Research is a strong component within academia, and the possibility of continuing doing it on a regular basis is what drives my work at the university,” Sebastião says.

“Although I have some experience with grant-writing, my experiences did not involve writing grants targeting federal agencies, which is a different ball game. Thus, beyond having a great idea, it is important to know how to put that great idea on the paper in a way to convince the agency that your project has value and will help them achieve their mission through your work.”

Hanover Research logoKNPE colleague Hill has enjoyed the beginning of the process and its “ways of thinking that have already impacted my approach to grant-writing.”

“Importantly, they have really pushed us to actually write and develop proposal, not just talk about them,” says Hill, an assistant professor of biomechanics “They have really made us as faculty put our words into action.”

Burgin hopes the Grant Academy will help her secure funding for her project that will support classroom teachers in analyzing the academic and emotional needs of their students and also will identify pedagogical strategies through collaborative action research involving teacher-candidates and practicing teachers.

“I am glad to be part of the Hanover academy,” says Burgin, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

“Through the process I will gain valuable knowledge and skills related to grant-writing; practical strategies, tools and resources about the grant-writing process; and be able to prepare a grant application for submission,” she adds. “The work to be produced during the academy will have a great impact on my career and the new knowledge and skills will be transferable to the classroom.”

Hu wants the academy to raise her to the next level of grant-writing and then above.

“I’ve tried to apply for big and small grants as the PI, co-PI or lead researcher – and accumulated a good amount of experiences. It’s been a process of learning agency-project fit, communicating with program officers, etc.,” says Hu, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education.

“While I appreciate the self-exploratory experience, I look forward to the structured training and one-on-one consultation with the Hanover team to develop more targeted goals in grant-writing,” she adds. “By participating, I hope to secure an external grant that is conceptualized, designed, developed and led by myself. Having ownership of a funded research project is my next career goal.”

Bill Pitney
Bill Pitney

Paige, meanwhile, is looking for a launching pad “to receive the funding that can move my ideas forward.”

“For many faculty members in higher education research, the uncovering of new knowledge is fundamental to their work as a professor. Oftentimes research takes money – and finding money is difficult and highly competitive,” says Paige, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and director of the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic.

“To this point in my career, obtaining research funding has not been a driving goal. However, funding can help me develop ideas that I have in my field of literacy. For example, teachers and schools are in need of fast and efficient diagnostic reading assessments to better understand the instruction that will best fit their individual students,” he adds. “Research funding can assist me in developing the tech tools that can address these needs.”

Harris is interested in the academy “because of the accountability it provides.”

“I have people expecting things from me and deadlines to meet, other than self-imposed ones. I respond well to that kind of pressure,” says Harris, an associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations. “It’s also great to get substantive feedback on drafts from people who aren’t as immersed in the research as I am, who can let me know if what I’m saying is intelligible to a non-expert in a very specific area.”

Citing minimal familiarity with the skills of securing research funding, Andzik says she is “very grateful that the college has entrusted me with this task and has offered me this opportunity.”

“As junior faculty, we rely on experiences from graduate school to guide us through our first years at a university. My grad program did not offer courses on grant development and I myself was not part of a grant-funded project. So, my experience with grant writing was literally nothing before coming to NIU,” says Andzik, an assistant professor in the Department of Special and Early Education (SEED).

“Given the unprecedented times following COVID, and working within an unstable and uncertain budget, it is imperative that we as early researchers seek out and secure our own funding,” she adds. “I am thrilled that finally I will be taught step by step how to find, apply for and, hopefully, manage an external grant.”

SEED colleague Donegan also is “excited for this opportunity and the potential it has to strengthen my work.”

“Expanding my research is an area I’m particularly focused on as an early career faculty,” Donegan says. “My previous research has focused on reading interventions for students with reading disabilities. I’m interested in expanding my research to examine the development of teacher knowledge and supports teachers need to serve students with reading disabilities effectively.”

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