July 25, 1997
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University has closed the books on its largest grant year ever, passing the $25 million mark for the first time in history.
June grants to the University of $1,730,572 brought the total received by the June 30 close of the 1996-97 fiscal year to $25,019,439 -- up 4 percent over the previous record total of $24.1 million set in 1995-96. The new figure, reported to the WMU Board of Trustees at its July 25 meeting, represents the University's third consecutive year of posting grant totals in excess of $20 million.
Dr. Donald E. Thompson, WMU vice president for research, attributes much of the recent research gains to the caliber of the team of researchers the University has assembled and to the research support mechanisms and personnel who work to make the grant process run smoothly.
"We have really been blessed to have attracted top quality faculty members in the past four or five years," Thompson says. The mentoring process that teams senior and junior faculty members as well as the support of senior administration and the deans also have been critical ingredients in the success, he says.
Thompson says efforts to be more visible in making contact with federal agencies and the national recognition attracted by some of the University's outstanding researchers have made the task of attracting both grant dollars and talented new faculty members easier.
"Kudos really go to our faculty. It's their strength, their ability to perform well when they get awards and their willingness to go after new awards that have made all the difference," he says. "And all the indicators say we'll continue to attract this kind of success."
Thompson says grant funding to the University has entered a new era with the $25 million total recorded for the fiscal year just completed. The figure has been a recent goal and part of the institution's long-term plan for advancement. Achieving the total while WMU President Diether H. Haenicke is still at the helm, Thompson notes, is a tribute to his leadership and the support he has brought to the research enterprise.
"We've said for some time we thought we were a $25 million research institution," Thompson says. "People across the University are now on board and recognize that we are on the cusp of becoming a Research II institution."
WMU is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as Michigan's only public Doctoral I institution. The University has been working recently toward placement in the foundation's next highest category of Research II. Research II institutions are those that receive a minimum of $15.5 million in federal funds annually in addition to supporting the kind of doctoral programs that WMU already offers. WMU's federal funding has averaged $10 million per year over the past three years.
"Proposal submission numbers are up, the number of awards granted is up and we have more researchers in the pipeline than ever before. This is exactly where we wanted to be," Thompson says. "Some of the new faculty coming in the next year are the kind of people who will continue to keep us on this track."
Major grants noted on Thompson's June report to the trustees included several federal awards that reflect both the basic and applied research realms in which WMU researchers have been successfully competing as well as grants for innovative academic programming. Two such awards from the U.S. Department of Education will be used for graduate education initiatives involving the field of blind rehabilitation.
A new award for $326,328 to Dr. William R. Wiener, chairperson of the Department of Blind Rehabilitation, and Dr. Elizabeth Whitten, interim chairperson of the Department of Special Education, will help launch a training program that will prepare graduate students to meet both the education and orientation and mobility needs of visually impaired children. A second grant for $99,981 was awarded to Wiener for a graduate program that will train students to provide mobility instruction to blind, working-age adults to enable them to return to gainful employment.
Also reported was a $129,172 award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Dr. William F. Jackson, professor of biological sciences. Jackson will use the grant to support his research on determining the site and mechanism of the action of oxygen on vessels in the body's microcirculation system.
The National Science Foundation, the source last year of nearly $5 million in WMU research funding, provided another grant noted in the June report. Dr. Quiji Zhu, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, will use the $64,754 award for basic research on mathematical control theory and the calculus of subdifferentials.
An award from the state of Michigan to Dr. Lynn C. Todman, associate director of the Institute for Leadership Transformation, will go toward developing leadership training activities for Michigan public school superintendents. Superintendents from minority school districts from across Michigan and from Mississippi have been working with the institute for two years as they assess their districts' needs and goals and develop skills that will help them accomplish those goals.
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