Over the past few years, the College has sought to create a culture of research and creative activity that supports and rewards excellence in humanities scholarship, performance, and artistic practice by providing research awards, travel funding, and support for engaged, collaborative scholarship. These strategies have enjoyed moderate success, doubling our total annual award distribution from $1.5M to $3.1M since 2011. In order to lead our peers and contribute more substantively to the University’s external research goals, the College needs to create bolder, more innovative programs and structures to incentivize external grant writing. Over the next five years, our goal is to quadruple our annual award output to $12M. This requires both institutional investment and a transformative cultural shift among the faculty.
Exponential growth in sponsored research requires an exponential increase in the number of grant applications we make. Our academic priorities in digital humanities, engaged public scholarship, design, and media arts align well with external funding opportunities in the arts and humanities. Pre-tenure faculty are explicitly expected now to apply for external funding at least once during their probationary period, and we will further develop our emerging grant writing and mentoring program into a Future Funded Faculty program in which we strategically bring faculty whose research has been sponsored together with those who are seeking their initial grants.
On the institutional investment side, the College will commit $300K during the summer of 2016 to pilot a Summer Research Incentive program that gives tenure system faculty summer salary to advance their scholarship or develop a proposal for external funding without having to rely on summer teaching for supplementary income. Rather than teaching, faculty will be expected to deliver a completed book manuscript, chapter, article, or grant proposal by the end of the summer. We will also increase the size and quantity of external grants and the number of faculty members involved in sponsored research by tactically investing in research centers and initiatives within the College— WIDE, CeLTA, CLEAR, the EEG lab, Ethics and Environment, and the DH Literary Cognition Lab—and between Colleges—MATRIX and DH@MSU.
On the graduate level, we have adopted a similar approach with our CAL External Funding Incentive program. Our goal is to encourage graduate students to seek grant, fellowship, and scholarship support for their research, scholarship, and creative endeavors. This program offers $500 in fellowship support to students who submit applications for major externally-funded awards designed to enhance their research and creative activity. The goal of both of these incentive programs is to increase the number of grant applications submitted by CAL faculty and graduate students.
To further our ability to participate in major NSF, NIH, and other federally funded grant activity, we will establish the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity at the College of Arts & Letters (see diagram 1). The MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity would position Michigan State University to become an international leader in efforts to understand and solve society’s problems collaboratively across the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines. This Center will give faculty and students a way to study, develop, and enrich the artistic and humanistic side of collaborative scientific and social practices, including, but not limited to the ethical, social, political, epistemic, and communication dimensions of interdisciplinary work. In close collaboration with scholars in MSU’s medical schools and environmental and agricultural science programs, as well as in business, engineering, and other disciplines, faculty and graduate students in the Center will expand their work on ethical and theoretical issues related to important topics such as health care, food safety, climate change, and sustainability.
These strategic initiatives to elevate the research and scholarly productivity of the College will also strengthen the quality of the undergraduate education we offer.