Texas State’s research grants funding is at an all-time high, marking a new period in the university’s history as an academically competitive institute.
Researchers, including faculty and students, have collectively received more than $13 million in private and federal grant money since Sept. 1.
Provostsaid funding for the last three to four years has been particularly significant in comparison to previous years.
“There was an emphasis placed upon research by the administration that led to a series of initiatives, and resources being pushed out to support them in generating research proposals, and getting them to submit them,” Bourgeois said. “We’ve had a number of proposal development workshops in the last one and a half years.”
The university has actively sought more faculty who are interested in independent research, Bourgeois said, calling it a “continuing nice trend upward.”
The university’s expenditures on conducting research, have more than tripled since 2006. Mike Blanda, assistant vice president for Research and Federal Relations, said the process for garnering sponsors, particularly federal, is competitive and exhaustive.
“There’s a lot of oversight involved,” Blanda said.
Faculty members or students must submit a budget to the Office of Sponsorship, and once the grant is awarded, must have all expenditures reviewed by the university as well as their benefactor.
Blanda said subsequent scholarly papers or articles are peer reviewed by others in the field of study, and the quality of the researchers findings is assessed from all angles.
“Sponsors do tend to fund successful researcher’s because successful researchers showing a tangible return on the investment,” Blanda said.
Blanda said research by the primary investigator is considered a success if graduate students can be trained in the area of study, or if the study produces doctoral dissertations. Blanda said the sudden influx in funding could be traced back to Jerome Supple, a previous Texas State president who brought doctoral programs to the university.
Blanda said the university’s goal, however, is not solely to bring in funds.
“It’s about scholarship and having Texas State faculty, staff and students involved in that, and contributing to the body of knowledge,” Blanda said.
Blanda also described a cultural change within the university. He said in the past 10 years, the word “research” and the value of it has been heavily reinforced.
“We used to be much more focused on high quality teaching and teacher preparation,” Blanda said. “We’re making the transformation to a more comprehensive university.”
Michael Forstner, professor of biology, acquired state and federal funding for the better part of a decade.
“The most difficult aspect of any external funding or donation request is tailoring it to the need of whatever advancement in science you seek to achieve, and the goals or ambitions that meet the agency or individual desires of the sponsor,” Forstner said.
Forstner has an ongoing grant from the Texas Department of Wildlife to study the conservation of Houston toads.
His team of investigators had been planning intense conservation of the species due to the drought when the Sept. 4 Bastrop fire hit.
“All of that planning pretty much went away,” Forstner said. “Just because a fire happened doesn’t mean our funders wanted to change the goals for our project.”
Forstner is currently breeding Houston toads to be able to study them in the wild.
The key to obtaining donations and advancing what is known in the field is to design an experiment that is innovative as well as useful to the agency, Forstner said.
“I’d like to believe that universities gain quality one quality researcher at a time,” Forstner said. “The environment here is one that now actively seeks to foster high quality research and supports it.”
Forstner said it is sometimes difficult to balance teaching, mentoring and field research.
“I think that in many ways my hiring represented the time period in which the university began that shift 12 years ago,” Forstner said. “I believe when they hired me they were already looking ahead. I’m not the guy who would be anything but research intense.”