WWU Grant-writing class finds projects gratifying

Students in a grant-writing class at William Woods University are learning the fine art of asking for money, and they hope their grant proposals will pay off.         


Dr. Stephanie Wells, assistant professor of English, has been teaching the grant-writing class for six years. Through her, the students are learning that investing time and effort in their projects can be even extremely gratifying.


The class, which consists of Erin Crooks of Fulton, Mo., Jenny Kesel of Catawissa, Mo., Kristen Withrow of Odessa, Mo., Lacy Gevers of Rhineland, Mo., Erika Campbell of Carl Junction, Mo., and Amanda Gamble of Jefferson City, Mo., spent the first half of the semester putting together a grant proposal requesting $30,000 for new lighting and scene shop equipment for the theatre department.


The existing lights and equipment are 30 years old and badly in need of replacement. The class worked with “client” Joe Potter, artistic director of theater, to prepare the grant proposal. Seeing the need for improvements in the theater department provided added motivation to put together a strong proposal.


“The work we are doing doesn’t just affect us, it impacts other people on campus,” said Crooks.


Gevers added, “We aren’t focused on the grade we get; we are focused on getting the funding.”


Past grant-writing classes have submitted successful grant proposals that brought in funding for a telescope for the science department and new equipment for the ASL department. The theatre grant proposal has been submitted to the University Advancement office to be sent to potential funding organizations.


Currently, the class is split in half to work on two separate grant proposals.


One group is working on a proposal that would bring in funds for a mediation program for the legal studies department. Mediation involves a neutral third party helping two disputing parties settle a small claims case. The legal studies department hopes to collaborate with small claims courts so certain cases can be settled on campus.                                    


The other group is working with SWAT (Student Website Advancement Team) to create a proposal for a website usability testing lab. The lab would be used to test websites for SWAT’s clients, many of whom are community members. This would provide a rare and valuable resource for SWAT members and MIS students, as there is only one other undergraduate website usability testing lab in Missouri.


“If we are going to compete in the current job market, William Woods must continue to press into new and innovative areas,” Dr. Linda Davis, professor of management information systems, said. 


“The website usability testing lab will enable us to delve into these advanced areas and really challenge our students.  It will also open new doors upon graduation.  U.S. News selected usability specialist as one of the ‘Best Careers 2009.’”


These grant proposals have the potential to bring great improvements to several departments on campus—but the grant-writing students also benefit from participation in an applied learning class.


Wells said, “Applied learning is a real strength for William Woods. I love seeing my students develop professional skills through their coursework.”


Campbell appreciated the opportunity to work with people on campus that she may not have met otherwise. The general consensus of the class was that they have all improved their skills in time management, group work, concise writing and, most of all, research.


“The research has been a continuous process—we keep coming up with more questions along the way,” said Withrow.


The entire class also agreed that the added incentive of helping other groups on campus motivated them to put together strong grant proposals.


“It puts more responsibility on us,” said Kesel. “We can’t just throw something together the night before.”


Gamble added, “The best parts were learning and being a part of the process of helping people. If they receive the funding, it will be really cool to know we were a part of that.”



Dr. Stephanie Wells (standing right) teaches a grant-writing class that includes (left to right) Natalie Huenneke, Erika Campbell, Lacy Gevers, Erin Crocks and Kriston Withrow. The students feel they have benefited from participation in an applied learning class.