St. Thomas Magazine_Spring 2022

“It is extremely meritorious that our faculty are competing at that level, especially when we recognize they have higher teaching loads than faculty from research-intensive universities,“ said Executive Vice President and Provost Eddy Rojas. “We‘re still competitive, and that is impressive.“

• A $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Health and Resources Administration (HRSA) to train students to serve medically underserved communities • Another $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education‘s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to increase the number of early intervention- trained social workers and special educators • A $1.5 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support engineering students (representing opportunities for first-generation students, as well as students of color) Success begets success The recent successes have inspired more faculty across St. Thomas to apply for grants themselves, said Katharine Hill, a School of Social Work professor who also serves as associate vice provost for faculty advancement and research. She helps oversee all major university grant applications. “Seeing colleagues who have success, who are able to pursue big research ideas or fund students, makes others think, ‘I could do that too,‘“ Hill said. “It‘s a culture that feeds itself as people on campus see what‘s possible with external funding.“ For one, the Center for Microgrid Research hopes to leverage its receipt of more than $7 million in local grants fromXcel Energy and the state of Minnesota to obtain $10 million to $15 million in federal grants over the next five to 10 years. The center is currently waiting to hear if two of its federal proposals, including one to the NSF, will be awarded. The microgrid is housed at the School of Engineering. Dean DonWeinkauf has been a champion supporter behind applications for federal grants at the school and across the university. “Increasing federal grant funding at St. Thomas is about improving the experience of our students,“ Weinkauf said. “Bringing in competitive grants provides more interdisciplinary opportunities for students and increases the caliber of their education. St. Thomas faculty are creating more hands-on, high-quality experiences by seeking these national opportunities.“ The faculty are driven by the benefits they see that the national funding has on student success in way of improved programs, services and research.

So what is the common thread behind this new wave of federal dollars? In many ways, it‘s similar to what made Brusnahan successful back in 2016 when she pointed out cultural barriers to accessing special education services in the Somali community: personal passion (she has an adult son with autism) and a desire to truly advance St. Thomas‘ mission by breaking down real-life barriers to critical services. “We achieved it because I told the story of our students,“ she said. “The whole mission of advancing the common good really helps [in securing grants].“ A look at the fine details behind some of the recent successful grants confirms that thought: • A $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to assist aspiring charter-school teachers fromdiverse communities

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