The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) requests funds to support the increased participation of biology faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in a CUR Proposal Writing Institute. CUR has offered this institute each year since 2000. This particular institute will be offered at Johnson C. Smith University, May 23-25, 2011. The institute will only be for faculty from HBCUs and is partially funded from a private foundation grant. The institute will include: 1) one-on-one work with a mentor; 2) small groups discussions; 3) writing and critiquing of proposals, including mentor and peer review of proposals; 4) plenary sessions about effective proposal writing; 5) a meeting with an NSF biology program officer.

Undergraduate research is a particularly effective way to develop the problem-solving skills and work habits needed by science professionals. It has been shown to improve retention in higher education, connecting students' classroom experience to the world of work and motivating them to continue their science studies at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. Undergraduate research supports the development of critical thinking, problem-solving skills, oral and written communication, and self-confidence (Lopatto, 2004). Mentors for undergraduate researchers need to be research-active themselves. Writing successful proposals is an essential skill for a research-active professor. Several reports have highlighted the importance of STEM education to maintain innovation and economic competitiveness in the United States (Business Roundtable, 2006; NAS, 2005; Council on Competitiveness, 2005). Many of these reports have made recommendations to increase the number of students studying in STEM fields with a particular focus on minority students. Students benefit from the mentoring they receive when they are involved in undergraduate research. The encouragement of a respected advisor, who can model research activities, may be especially significant for minority students and their aspirations for graduate work.

Broader Impacts: The involvement of five additional biology faculty from HBCUs can foster either the development or strengthening of proposal writing on their campuses. Often successful proposal writing and undergraduate research will begin in one department, perhaps even with an individual faculty member, and expand to the whole department and other departments and disciplines on campus. Since many graduate programs now expect applicants to come with undergraduate research experience, the development or expansion of undergraduate research programs can assist students in preparing for graduate school and being competitive in the application process. This is a first step in increasing the STEM pipeline for minority science professionals.

Project Report

The purpose of Award #1118031 was to assist biology faculty from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) to develop proposal development skills. The Council on Undergraduate Research offered a three-day workshop for thirty STEM faculty at Johnson C. Smith University. Workshop presenters were experienced and successful proposal writers. An NSF program officer also attended the workshop and gave a presentation about NSF programs. NSF funded nine biology faculty and twenty-one faculty were funded by a private foundation. The workshop was designed specifically for HBCU faculty after consultation with administrators from HBCUs. A telephone call nine months after the workshop indicated that of the nine NSF funded participants, five had submitted proposals by the time the NSF final report was submitted. Two proposals were funded, two proposals were under review and one proposal had been resubmitted. Two faculty had proposals in process. An additional participant had served as a co-principal investigator for a NSF S-STEM grant. Workshop participants completed an evaluation of the workshop. Of those completing the evaluation survey, the majority rated the workshop overall as good or excellent and the components of the workshop as very useful or moderately useful. Overall, the workshop goal to assist HBCU faculty to develop proposal development skills was met.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB)
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Michele McGuirl
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Council on Undergraduate Research
United States
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