Grants helping professors accomplish goals

When one professor wanted to create a field-intensive course, he turned to the Strategic Initiative Fund for assistance. With a $140,000 grant over three years, Tony Burgess, professor of professional practice, will be able to create a course that will give students the basics of inventory and the knowledge to create a biodiverse environment.

Leo Munson, assistant vice chancellor for academic support, said the Strategic Initiative Fund program, which is approved through the 2009-2010 academic year, will help connect TCU to the residential and business community, but will also help professors to establish courses and programs that might not normally be funded.

“There is just not that much money for deans to try experimental programs,” Munson said. “These grants allow us to take risks, but an outcome assessment of each grant is reviewed.”

The grant program is broken down into two categories of grants: transformational and pathways for transformation.

According to the VIA Web site, transformational grants are designed to be long-term grants that are expected to establish new programs at the university, while pathways for transformation are smaller grants that are generally intended to be completed in one year or less. The 2006-2007 VIA grants, which have a deadline of March 24, will have an estimated budget of $2.2 million and are expected to be awarded by the first week of May, according to the VIA Web site.

Transformation grants can receive no more than 20 percent of the budget, which varies from year to year. Pathways for transformation have a recommended limit of $25,000.

Burgess said there is no way he could teach the class without the VIA grant because of the enormous start-up cost associated with creating the course.

Burgess’ six-hour course, which will begin in mid May will require students to work in the field five to six days a week studying insects, birds, reptiles and mammals at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, located north of Lake Worth, Burgess said.

Burgess said he believes the class will be small the first year, but thinks the program can be self-sufficient within three years.

Julia Lovett, extended education’s coordinator of community programs and professional development, received a $20,000 pathway for transformation grant aimed to assist Fort Worth Independent School District employees. The grant will help to create a program to teach FWISD employees the basic phrases and practices needed to communicate with Spanish-speaking students and parents.

FWISD will eventually find other methods to pay for the program, Lovett said.

Both Lovett and Burgess, along with other Strategic Initiative Fund recipients, will have their programs reviewed by the evaluation committee this summer. If multiyear grants do not succeed by the established bench marks designated by the evaluation committee and the grant director, the program will no longer be funded, Munson said.

Multiyear grants that continue to succeed could receive funding from traditional methods, such as through the department deans, after the VIA grants expire, Munson said.

Lovett said: “There is a lot of talk about Vision In Action, but these grants are putting that vision to work.