In 2015, CAHNR faculty members received more than $21 million in grant funding, a 38 percent increase from the previous year. Awarded to 82 faculty members, this figure represents 39 percent of the College’s total budget for the fiscal year 2016, which ends June 30, 2016.
“We are very pleased that we have been so successful in obtaining grants,” says Associate Dean Cameron Faustman. “When we compare ourselves to similar colleges across the country, we’re doing very well.”
He continues, “Our basic formula for success is to hire good people and allow them to pursue their interests with whatever support we can provide.”
Faustman goes on to explain how vital outside funds are to the College, University and entire state.
“Faculty are hired to pursue creative interests that often benefit the public,” he says. “Obtaining a grant allows them to pursue those interests in a very deep and meaningful way. If you want to do science research, you have to have money to do it. The funds allocated through the state to the University are insufficient to cover the total costs associated with doing research.”
“Not surprisingly,” he continues, “as the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, we receive a significant portion of our funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, we receive a substantial portion of our funding from other sources such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Defense, as well as state agencies, non-governmental organizations and private foundations.”
Submitting a grant proposal is often a daunting process. First, a faculty member must develop a research concept that is current yet appealing, then decide whether to process their grant directly through the College or through a UConn research center such as the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering or the Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention. Often, they are working with other faculty, and sometimes other universities, all of which must be coordinated. The application is extensive and must meet federal and state regulations.
“Nancy Abbott is critical to faculty members’ success in granstmanship,” Faustman says of the College’s grants development officer. “She helps faculty navigate the submission process, budgeting and compliance requirements, which have become very complex. She is essential to our faculty remaining competitive. When time permits, she will also find grant opportunities for faculty. She is a huge asset.”
Grant funds support research, teaching and extension, with far-reaching benefits. In addition to providing the resources for a faculty member’s research or extension program, grant funding supports undergraduate and graduate students through internships, part-time work, and experiential learning. During 2015, 45 percent of the graduate student population and 85 percent of postdoctoral fellows salaries were paid through grant funding.
“Grant-funded research helps students develop skills, pursue their degrees and become qualified for employment,” Faustman point out. “It’s very important because this helps ensure the next generation of scientists. Many students cannot afford graduate school without these funds.”
These monies help to support the University, as a portion of all grants funds, known as indirect costs, goes to the College and the University to maintain and improve the research infrastructure on campus.
According to Faustman, one of the reasons the College is so successful in obtaining grants is the level of support offered to faculty through the College.
“We have to give credit to our department heads for their very positive influence through mentoring and encouraging their faculty, which enhances the research mission of our College,” says Faustman.
Several years ago, the College provided workshops with an outside firm to teach the finer points of successful grantsmanship. The seminars were such a hit with faculty members that for the past two years the effort has been taken over by the University, which now provides ongoing workshops to the entire UConn faculty, thus subsidizing the effort and becoming more cost effective for the College.
“The whole concept was something we started in the College,” says Faustman. “We can be proud of that accomplishment and what it has meant to the UConn faculty.”