Category Archives: Letters to Faculty & Staff


Faculty and staff are cordially invited to participate in the 2017 spring commencement ceremony Saturday, April 29

Please see the attached memo from Dr. Huntoon.  This is a day of celebration for our students – it means the world to them to see their professors and friends supporting their transition to jobs, graduate school, etc.   Their loyalty to Tech (and thus interest in eventually giving back to our mission) is tied to their feeling of commUNITY. Please join us in celebrating our graduates and wishing them farewell.

Faculty and staff are cordially invited to participate in the 2017 spring commencement ceremony Saturday, April 29, at 10:30 a.m. in the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

Please submit the faculty participation information form (https://goo.gl/forms/kVUeCYVSLDUDtmNz2) no later than Friday, March 3, 2017.

2017-SpringCommencementMemo-217



January 2017 Letter to the Faculty & Staff

January 2017

Dear Colleagues,

As I reflect on my unintentional hiatus from these letters, it may be valuable to start some ways back….  As an Associate Professor, I began exploring opportunities in administration because I wanted to positively impact the system for my colleagues.  My first opportunity was as a faculty fellow (highly recommend this opportunity: http://www.mtu.edu/research/administration/vpr-office/internal-awards/faculty-fellow/) in the Office of the Vice President for Research.  It was a fun learning experience and humbling to engage in the data-driven decisions and idea vetting behind key decisions at this fine institution. I concluded from this learning experience that weaknesses perceived rarely had a foundation in the decisions themselves, but in the regular/transparent communication of those decisions.

Thus, when I was given this opportunity to serve as the research and innovation advocate for the college of engineering supporting all of you, I set as a top priority to communicate on a frequent and regular basis.  So, what happened that these letters have gotten harder and harder to write and I’ve started 6 of them over the last 7 months and never finished?   The simplest answer is limited time between meetings for one valuable initiative or another (which I think benefits each of you).  But the more accurate heart of the issue is larger and points to a cultural challenge I see facing Michigan Tech.

That challenge is rooted in our view of ourselves as a team and our collective goals as educators of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs as well as our responsibility as knowledge generators for society and our planet.  For me, the Portrait 2045 for Michigan Tech envisions what we want our institution to become and is our part of making the world a better place.  The path to becoming that institution should be unit (department, center/institute, and research group) driven.  So, what is the cultural challenge?  It starts with the imaginary divide perceived by some – but not all – between faculty and administration.  The damaging (to everyone) assumption behind this divide is that responsibility lies on only one side of this imaginary divide or with one group or another. The true strength is in each of you engaging together in short-term goals that build to mid-term goals within your unit or affinity group.  Please don’t wait around for others to initiate – brainstorm with your colleagues at C-Cubed, then share that with your department chair/center director/committee chair – and get started with something, even it if it is small.  We’d love to hear and support those ideas in the COE as well.

In summary and to offer perspective, administrators perceive things to go so much smoother when efforts are faculty initiated or faculty endorsed.  Faculty sometimes think administrators are the only ones who can change things (this mindset can be associated with feeling trapped or un-empowered and thus lower job satisfaction).  There is an element of reality in both perceptions, but the true strength lies when groups work together.

Thus, I ask a favor of you.  If you haven’t recently, please seek out your closest administrator or leader – including committee chairs, colleagues – and do two things.  Acknowledge/show appreciation for their latest effort, however small, that helped you complete your own goals or helped your unit. Then engage them in civil, constructive discussions about opportunities/improvements/pain points.  As our MLK banquet speaker, Dr. Robert Scott emphasized, it is our responsibility to engage in constructive discourse to build the future we want.  Most would agree that the ‘political screaming past each other’ style discourse doesn’t work well, so let’s build a microcosm of beneficial discourse on our campus.  Each of you have a ton of influence – feel encouraged to constructively exercise your voice and your passion.

On our holiday break drive, my family and I were listening to a Podcast (Back to Work episode 299) that discussed how every person has an “on stage” persona and a – usually private – “back stage” persona.  Most of us have learned to carefully craft our on-stage persona, which is a function of what is expected of us in our role.  But, what we actually accomplish has a direct dependence on how we manage ourselves back stage.  Thus, in my next Dear Colleague Letters, I’d like to address some of the back-stage vulnerabilities people have shared.  These will include:

  • Work/Life Balance. A number of our faculty have worked themselves into the hospital and others can likely attest to working to near exhaustion. At the Research Development Day on January 4, emphasis was placed on working smarter and carefully investing time in fewer, well-developed proposals instead of submitting tons of weakly crafted proposals.    Similarly, placing priority on both your work and a healthy lifestyle is essential to maintain your happiness, creativity, and desire to continue your research and educational efforts.  This resource may help convince you that happier people are more productive.
  • On a related vein, there is a great article on Perfectionist Gridlock, which “is being stuck in place for fear of not doing something at the highest level of excellence.” https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1514 Academics are susceptible to this. The linked resource provides 8 ways to get unstuck.
  • Hopefully you aren’t currently experiencing (or perceiving) external critics, but this resource provides strategies for Taming Your Inner Critic. http://www.facultydiversity.org/?MM_TameYourInnerCrit

Due to the length of this letter, I’ve included requests for proposals (RFPs) on the engineering research blog, http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-research/.  This blog is also updated regularly with workshops/awards, and innovation opportunities for both you and your graduate students – please subscribe to the RSS feed and encourage your graduate students to do the same.

Data shared during the Research Development Day mentioned above showed that our success rates at Tech are higher for larger collaborative proposals. (The agency handouts and presentations are available by following the link provided in the email version of this letter or by contacting Pete Larsen palarsen@mtu.edu.)  Thus, significant efforts have gone into connecting our talented researchers here at Tech.  Please engage in programs/activities such as….

Nominate Yourself or Others for a TechTalk in the Spring Michigan Tech Research Forum

An internal University presentation series began in the fall semester and will continue this spring.  Detail on presenters and their slides are on the website.  UMC also did two Storify articles for the first and second TechTalks.  We want to feature you and other researchers from across campus in the TechTalks, so self-nominations are encouraged. Visit the form to nominate yourself of other researchers by the end of January.

On the innovation side of things, I thought it would be valuable to share some talking points that Jim Baker, Executive Director of Innovation & Industry Engagement provided for the entire university.

  • Michigan Tech is commonly 1.5-2 times the National Average and State of Michigan Average in the number of invention disclosures (transforming research into discoveries) and technology licenses (transforming discoveries into commercial outcomes), and startup companies per dollar of research expenditures.
  • The most recent data that is available is from 2013 when we were 1.7 times the national average for startups and 1.6 times the national average for invention disclosures and Licenses.
  • The Michigan Tech model is to actively participate in the development of technologies toward a commercial market opportunity with early stage funding and support programs including Superior Innovations, the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program, an NSF I-Corps Site grant program, and an active mentors-in-residence program which put funding, training, and expertise into commercialization projects at critical times throughout the commercialization process.  We are also integrating applied commercialization fundamentals into our curriculum through the Pavlis Honors College and associated curricular and co-curricular student-focused programs.  This approach is consistent with the innovative models that the universities presenting in the briefing will likely discuss.
  • In support of the above, Michigan Tech was recently highlighted in a supplement to the Journal Nature as one of the “smart universities” developing holistic relationship models of technology transfer. Nature Outlook Tech Transfer 2016

You may have noticed improvements on our website thanks to Sue Hill in the COE. We want to feature more collaborations and the people (faculty, graduate students, etc.) driving our innovative research.  I want to alert you to a mechanism to support your scholarly efforts on your research projects.  The college of engineering has been putting into place tools to increase the visibility of your publications.   As you train students and publish your research, please keep us updated.  We would like to help publicize your work by featuring your journal publications in media stories. Please share your manuscripts with us as soon as they are accepted by going to: https://goo.gl/forms/WZmN0BDdSSwOomVl2   To properly write news summaries that yield the broadest coverage, our staff need 3 weeks to prepare for, write, edit, design, post, promote, and share a news release. The news release is then timed to coincide with the publication date of your manuscript. We’ve tested this out with a few researchers over the fall semester and are ready for publications from the entire college, so please submit your accepted articles!  If you have ideas to feature your group, your students, your collaborative team or center, please email us.

I hope your January is filled with highly productive stretches as well as fun-filled times in the snow with family or friends as we look forward to Winter Carnival!

Best Regards,

Adrienne


May Letter to the Faculty & Staff

Dear Engineering Faculty and Staff:

The beautiful days definitely make the rainy, chilly days more bearable.  While the cycles of rain sure help plants (and weeds) grow in the garden, I personally could use a few more Memorial Days!   I hope your transition into summer research and scholarship is going well.  Years ago, when I first started applying for academic jobs, I read an excellent book (which I still recommend to my students) titled, “Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for Careers in Science and Engineering” by Richard M. Reis  (http://tinyurl.com/znquluf).  He bridged from this into a weekly online post/email (https://tomprof.stanford.edu).  The latest post is about being “Maxed Out”.  I highly recommend it since it is a short read and helps one pause and reprioritize time and how we spend it to align with career goals.  The goals of our office are to help each of you thrive and achieve your career aspirations.  Please check out the following opportunities and take advantage of those that align with your priorities and career aspirations!

The research development team in the VPR, new faculty, and I visited Federal Agencies in DC.  This annual trip is an excellent opportunity to learn how each agency functions and to learn to align your own research to make it compelling for each agencies mission. Presentations given at Federal Science Partners (http://federalsciencepartners.squarespace.com) as well as at agencies are available at: https://drive.google.com/a/mtu.edu/folderview?id=0B8jpDpcUTiLrdWxmWVJKcE5Ta0k&usp=sharing

In response to both national events and recent “red flags” in Michigan Tech laboratories, the university is pushing to promote and develop a pervasive safety culture.  This starts with each of us and our graduate students and of course covers mechanical, chemical, and biosafety.  Two faculty fellows, Larry Sutter (llsutter@mtu.edu) and Rudy Luck (rluck@mtu.edu) have been focusing on different aspects of university wide resources and processes.  Dean Pennington recently circulating two documents to chairs in our college: One is a document from the National Research Council, published by the National Academies Press, titled “Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research”. The other is from the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, titled “A guide to implementing a SAFETY CULTURE in our universities”.  Please take this summer to update your lab’s training, safety manuals, and other resources (university resources are here: http://www.mtu.edu/oshs/safety-programs/required/safety-manual/ ).  Seek out opportunities to talk with your students about safe practices, how to prevent accidents, and any processes or procedures that they are uncomfortable performing in order to improve them and make them safer.  Suggestions to reward proactive behaviors and efforts to make our campus laboratories safer are welcome.

June and July are of course big proposal writing months (or dissertation reading/editing months).  NIH proposals are due late June while NSF CAREER proposals are due mid-July.  Every Monday, an informal lunch gathering meets at noon at the library café (or just outside) for anyone writing proposals.   For some weeks, a brief discussion topic is planned (e.g. educational integration for career proposals, broader impacts, etc.).  Most sessions are open discussions or one on one discussions tailored to your questions.  Come brainstorm ideas with your colleagues, seek out collaborations, and help cultivate our vibrant, supportive research culture!  For those more experienced, consider offering to read drafts of objectives (goals/specific aims) and offer guidance on rephrasing the compelling strengths and brainstorming on perceived weaknesses so these can be directly addressed as the proposal is being developed.

Please continue to visit the engineering research blog, http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-research/ which is updated regularly with requests for proposals, workshop/award, and innovation opportunities.   With the addition of Sue Hill in the COE office, we have been brainstorming and beginning to implement improvements to the website.  These will be rolled out as the summer unfolds.  If you have ideas to feature your group, your students, your collaborative team or center, please email us.

I hope your June is filled with highly productive stretches as well as fun-filled times with family/friendsenjoying the multitude of adventures in this wonderful region.

Best Regards,

Adrienne

NAP_SafetyCultureAcademics

http://www.aplu.org/library/safety-culture/file


NSF requires full F&A on all proposals

All:  This is a heads up on a recent NSF policy change on F&A costs.  We recently had a proposal that was submitted with a F&A waiver approved for funding.  Upon funding NSF required a budget mod to show full F&A costs without an increase in the project budget.

Lisa Jukkala talked to Jean Feldman, Director of the NSF Policy Office and she confirmed that due to the Uniform Guidance and NSF policy, voluntary waiver of F&A is considered voluntary cost share and is no longer allowable unless a lower rate is required by legislation or NSF policy.

This is in effect now. Proposals already submitted but not yet funded will be subject to this if approved for funding.  We will no longer be allowing F&A reductions in NSF proposal budgets.  We will not be able to reduce F&A on things like CAREER or any other proposals to NSF.  For now this is only NSF but seems likely to spread to other agencies.

Any questions let me know.

Dave R


April (February/March) Letter to the Faculty & Staff

Dear Engineering Faculty and Staff:

The steadily increasing prevalence of green helps brighten the mood.  As we wind down the semester, saying goodbye to our seniors, and transitioning into more time to conduct research, it a great opportunity to pause and reprioritize.  My summer ToDo list is likely similar to yours and includes prioritizing my graduate students, crafting research proposals to hopefully keep my students funded, submitting those papers that have stagnated on my desk, and editing dissertations.  Most importantly, my list includes delivering on those promises to the kids and family to hike, camp, ride bikes, play baseball, etc.  The advice I give to my students frantically working to finish their PhD is to plan your summer to set yourself up for success by setting realistic goals.  Looking at my list, I need to follow my own advice…  The following letter outlines opportunities and resources for you and your group to take advantage of this summer.

Michigan Tech has recently become a member of the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC) { http://www.mtec-sc.org} that has been formed to tackle military related medical issues.  MTEC can be viewed as a funding opportunity for all medical related research that may have civilian or military relevance.  If you are interested in MTEC or would like to know more about the consortium or upcoming funding opportunities, you can contact Paul Hoppe in the Research Development Office at pdhoppe@mtu.edu or 7-3098.

We’ve all have advised outstanding students that are prolific writers and those who struggle. We are working to pilot writing groups http://tinyurl.com/pdmjyre that provide goal setting and accountability to increase writing productivity, hopefully in coordination with the Graduate Student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  If you or your students would like to get involved, please let me know.

We held an information gathering and networking session for mid-career faculty in early April, that explored the very diverse career aspirations and research/teaching/service emphases of our Associate Professors.  We are currently working on compiling and analyzing the session outputs and survey responses to tailor programs and efforts beginning in Fall 2016.

Tonight, we celebrated and thanked the pilot members of the Early Career Management (ECM) committees.  Our ECM program pairs a new faculty member with three senior faculty for monthly meetings throughout their first year. The goal is to facilitate and accelerate career trajectories providing optimal foundations for research productivity, teaching success, and departmental citizenship. This pilot is being expanded for all new faculty at the university starting in Fall 2016 or Spring 2017.  We are looking for enthusiastic advocates, so please volunteer by emailing me – I can share more details.

Next, I’d like to bring your attention the following NSF Dear Colleague Letter: Improving Graduate Student Preparedness for Entering the Workforce, Opportunities for Supplemental SupportThe 2013 Survey of Doctorate Recipients has shown that 73% of PhD holders in engineering are in non-academic employment while only 27% pursue academic jobs (see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctoratework/). Among new PhD graduates, the percentage going into academic careers is estimated to be even lower. It is therefore important that research assistants working on NSF grants be provided opportunities to develop skills that prepare them to be successful for a broad range of career paths. In addition to deep and broad preparation in their technical areas of expertise, skills and knowledge regarding communication, innovation & entrepreneurship, leadership & management, policy and outreach are becoming increasingly valuable to enter the workforce. Such skills and knowledge also benefit doctoral students entering academia due to an increased need to communicate the value of the research and its broader impact, to collaborate with other researchers, and to mentor students.”

Also, please consider encouraging your students to attend a Gordon Research Conference http://www.grc.org  in their research area.  The conferences are the most friendly and intensive forums for students to a) learn the state of the art in the field, b) major researchers in the field, and c) network with those prominent researchers as well as fellow graduate students.    Applications are accepted on a rolling basis for different conferences.

The Gordon Research Conferences provide an international forum for the presentation and discussion of frontier research in the biological, chemical, and physical sciences, and their related technologies.

Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) are:

  • Created by scientists, for scientists
  • Forums to discuss pre-publication research at the forefront of your field
  • Informal communities of experts in the field
  • A great opportunity to network with your peers
Gordon Research Seminars (GRS) are:

  • Organized by and for young investigators
  • A way to interact with leaders who may later serve as mentors

 

On the Innovation side of things:

On the engineering research blog, http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-research/ there is a separate category for innovation related RFPs/resources.  There are a number of low barrier webinars on this topic featured there.   Michigan Tech has a wonderful ecosystem for this due in large part to the team in the Innovation and Industry Engagement Office (http://www.mtu.edu/research/references/staff/iie/).  There are a number of seed programs including the Research Enhancement Funds – Commercialization Milestone Grants (REF-CM) http://www.mtu.edu/research/administration/vpr-office/internal-awards/research-excellence-fund/ref-cmg.html which has a rolling deadline.

I’d be happy to visit with anyone considering this path.  My company completed an NSF STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer Research) Phase I grant in December and are waiting to hear the fate of our Phase II proposal.  I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’m happy to share our experiences and advise anyone moving along this pathway, so please ask!

 

Update on a few proposal efforts:

Michigan Tech submitted a letter of intent (LOI) for the NSF INCLUDES program.  The project focuses on Changing the STEM pipeline so characteristics are more attractive to indigenous populations (Native Americans) in the Upper Great Lakes Region with an emphasis on sustainable natural resources.

In addition, as the semester winds down, preparations for the NSF CAREER proposals increase for our new faculty as well as NIH proposals for all of us.  You can help by discussing their ideas briefly with them and offering your perspectives including rephrasing the compelling strengths and brainstorming on perceived weaknesses so these can be directly addressed within the proposal.

We plan to host informal conversations every Friday starting in late May and continuing through July.  A few of us, including much of the Research Development Team, are available discuss your proposal ideas.  These informal lunch sessions are open to all individuals writing proposals for submission this summer.  Details will follow mid-May after we return from the Annual Spring Trip to the agencies in DC May 9-12.   Thanks to the Research Development team with Faculty Fellow Aleksey Smirnov, asmirnov@mtu.edu, who organized the May 9-12 trip. This trip makes a huge difference in helping faculty best position and tailor proposals specific to agencies and programs to subsequently earn research funding.

Want to get involved?

Your input is always welcome and appreciated.   Feel free to email out of the blue or schedule a time with Faye (fedompie@mtu.edu) to meet in person.

To facilitate dissemination of opportunities, please subscribe to our blog, http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-research/. My strategy, thus far, has been to post all requests for proposals, workshop/award, and innovation opportunities that cross my desk. Clicking the “Entries RSS” link from that lower right menu brings you to an XML page. Copy that URL and paste it into your RSS aggregator or reader. That software/app would then show you all updated content. If you don’t have/use an RSS aggregator, the only way to see new posts is to check the site itself.

Special congratulations to all of our faculty who were promoted, tenured, or both.  Very well deserved!

In closing, I hope your grading comes to a smooth finish and you are able to join our graduates at commencement.  I understand we have a record number of MS and PhD graduates at this commencement.

 

Best Regards,

Adrienne


January (Dec/Nov) Letter to Faculty and Staff

Dear Engineering Faculty and Staff:

There reaches a time – when behind on a project – where you realize it is best to just start over. Well, this month I’m circulating a catch up letter and will start anew with my best intentions to write monthly letters to enhance communication.  The last few months have been busy, but productive research and innovation-wise in the CoE.  Please provide feedback on how the following impact your scholarly activities.

 

Two teams submitted NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) proposals this last week.  Amlan Mukherjee led a team which submitted, “NRT- Data Enabled Science and Engineering – An Entrepreneurial Model to Deliver a Graduate Program in Data Enabled Infrastructure Systems” and Jon Sticklen led a team which submitted, “NRT-IGE: Building International Online Communities of Practice: Peace Corps Master’s Nexus in Food/Energy/Water.”  These larger proposals require considerable coordination across disciplines and those who dedicated their time and effort should be commended.  If funded, these will have considerable positive impacts on our graduate student community!

We’ve all have advised outstanding students that are prolific writers and those who struggle. We are working to pilot writing groups http://tinyurl.com/pdmjyre that provide goal setting and accountability to increase writing productivity, hopefully in coordination with the Graduate Student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  If you or your students would like to get involved, please let me know.

The Proposal Development team organized a Research Development day that covered diverse agencies including NSF, NIH, USDA, NOAA, MDEQ, DoE, EPA, DoD, NASA, Industry, and Foundations.  If you missed this and would like to review the presentations, please contact Peter Larsen, palarsen@mtu.edu.  In addition, Aleksey Smirnov, asmirnov@mtu.edu, has been helping organize a trip to visit many of the agencies in Washington D.C. All faculty are invited; a special emphasis is placed on new faculty to ensure they go on this trip at least once since it makes a huge difference in earning research funding.  We are asking for firm commitments from participants by February 26.

We are currently working on programming for mid-career faculty, but it has been slow to plan due to the very diverse career aspirations and research/teaching/service emphases of our Associate Professors.  If you have any ideas/opinions on this topic, please feel free to email me. We hope to schedule a discussion session soon.

 

On the Innovation side of things:

Building from the diverse interests/career aspirations of our faculty, the option to explore translation of your research and/or educational endeavors into commercialize-able products is rewarding option.  Michigan Tech has a wonderful ecosystem for this due in large part to the team in the Innovation and Industry Engagement Office (http://www.mtu.edu/research/references/staff/iie/).  There are a number of seed programs including the Research Enhancement Funds – Commercialization Milestone Grants (REF-CM) http://www.mtu.edu/research/administration/vpr-office/internal-awards/research-excellence-fund/ref-cmg.html which has a rolling deadline.

I’d be happy to visit with anyone considering this path.  My company has just completed and NSF STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer Research) Phase I grant and recently applied for the Phase II.  I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’m happy to share our experiences and advise anyone moving along this pathway.

 

Proposal Efforts:

We held two informational meetings on the National Robotics Initiative (NRI) https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503641  This unique inter-agency call has all proposals initially all routed through NSF, reviewed and then forwarded/funded by a wide range of agencies.  Full proposal deadline is March 7, 2016.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its funding partners are inviting innovators to apply for two grant opportunities Grand Challenges China: New Interventions for Global Health and Grand Challenges for Development: Saving Lives at Birth. Applications are due March 15 or February 29, respectively.

The ADVANCE team (myself, Sonia Goltz, Patricia Sotirin, Anita Quinn, and Jackie Huntoon) submitted what we hope was a highly competitive proposal entitled, “ADVANCE Institutional Transformation – Continuous Improvement AMP-UP Processes to Transform Climate in STEM” and have started implementing the Advanced Matrix Process for University Programs or AMP-UP.  Please contact me or Anita (aquinn@mtu.edu) if you want to get involved.

 

Want to get involved?

Your input is always welcome and appreciated.   Feel free to email out of the blue or schedule a time with Sherry (sjanders@mtu.edu) to meet in person.

To facilitate dissemination of opportunities (RFPs, seminars, more), please subscribe to our blog, http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-research/. My strategy, thus far, has been to post all requests for proposals, workshop/award, and innovation opportunities. I’ve reserved email to selectively forwarding the most relevant RFP to individuals or groups.

In closing, hang in there as the snow piles up and up.  Mother nature is making up for December and reminding us that the benefits of living here include a total immersion in winter!

Best Regards,

Adrienne


Agencies making decisions on budgets for the next 2 years: Please talk to your agency contacts!

All:  Here is the APLU summary of the federal budget actions last week.  There are links to more details.  Over the next 45 days, agencies will be finalizing their spending plans since they just now have their final numbers for the current year.  That will have to shake out before the funding numbers get down to the program level.  In the two-year budget deal signed earlier, almost all the increases are in FY16 – FY17 will basically be flat.  What that means is that the agency spending plans developed in the next month and a half will basically be 18-month [two fiscal year] plans.  That means that the next 45 days are very significant in terms of spending decisions, and this is a particularly critical time to be in touch with your agency contacts as these plans are being developed.  Due to the elections, FY17 will almost certainly be funded through a continuing resolution [meaning no new starts], again indicating that the next few weeks will be critical in determining agency programs for the next two years.
Dave R

To:      Council of Presidents

From:  Peter McPherson, APLU President

Date:   December 18, 2015

Re:      Congressional Approval of FY16 Appropriations and Other Key Legislation

Through a series of votes today and yesterday, the House and Senate gave final approval for a Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that increases investments in research and student aid and a tax extenders measure that makes permanent certain tax benefits for students and universities.  Below you will find a brief summary of both measures with links for additional information.

Please know the funding increases and tax provisions included in these measures would not have been possible without your concerted efforts to ensure your congressional delegations knew of the significant importance they have for their local universities and their students.  Thank you for all of the outreach you did, including over these last few weeks and months as a deal was crafted.

FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

The Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill represents a significant step forward in our nation’s efforts to expand access to higher education and invest in cutting edge research to help ensure the U.S. remains the global innovation leader.

For education/student aid programs, the measure:

  • Ensures the maximum Pell grant award will increase by $140 to $5,915 in the 2016-2017 school year while not dipping into the Pell surplus.
  • Increases TRIO by $60 million to $900 million (a 7.1% increase over FY15)
  • Increases GEARUP by $21 million to $323 million (7%)

For research, the measure:

  • Increases funding for NIH by $2 billion to $32.1 billion (a 6.5% increase over FY15) — the largest single increase for the agency in over a decade.
  • Increases funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative by $25 million to $350 million (7.7%)
  • Increases funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science by $279 million to $5.35 billion (5.5%)
  • Increases funding for NSF by $119 million to $7.46 billion (1.6%)

Important programs cut in either or both the House and Senate bills earlier this year, such as the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need, the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Institute of Education Sciences, Title VI International Education, and Health Resources Services Administration Health Professions are fully restored to Fiscal Year 2015 levels.  Unfortunately, the First in the World Program did not receive any funding.

The bill also significantly increases the opportunities for U.S. universities to partner and help develop institutions of higher education in developing countries and supports the global food security research at U.S. universities through the Feed the Future Innovation Labs.  APLU’s International Advocacy Coordinating Committee was essential to building support on Capitol Hill for these programs.

A more complete summary of the FY16 omnibus appropriations bill can be found here.

Tax Extenders Bill

The tax extenders bill addresses several provisions that were set to expire in 2017. The measure costs more than $650 billion over the next ten years.  Among the highlights included in the measure:

 

  • Makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit that provides low and middle-income families with an annual tax credit of up to $2,500 per student for college expenses.
  • Makes permanent the IRA charitable rollover tax deduction that will facilitate greater philanthropic contributions to universities.
  • Makes permanent the R&D tax credit, which benefits U.S. industries seeking to conduct applied research and development activities, often building upon the scientific knowledge gained through the basic research performed at our institutions.
  • Extends the tuition and expenses deduction through 2016.
  • Reforms 1098-T reporting requirements so institutions report only qualified tuition and related expenses paid by students rather than choosing either amounts paid or amounts billed.  Some institutions have concerns that this is a very difficult administrative burden.

The full tax extenders measure can be read here.

Perkins Loan Extension

One more pertinent action Congress took this week was to pass legislation under unanimous consent, which extends the Perkins Loan program for two years.  As you may recall, authorization for this campus-based aid program expired at the end of September.  The details of the extension bill are not ideal, as it limits graduate student participation and mandates that new Perkins recipients exhaust unsubsidized Stafford loans before taking Perkins.  However, enactment keeps the program alive and will allow Congress to more thoroughly consider the Perkins Loan program in the context of the Higher Education Act, which is the appropriate vehicle. APLU will advocate for restoring graduate student eligibility and fixing other problems in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

We’ve taken an important step forward with these measures, but more work lies ahead in 2016. Thank you again for all of the work you put into making sure your congressional delegation understood these priorities.

All of us at APLU wish you and your families a very happy and healthy holiday season and new year!  1307 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005-4722   202.478.6040   fax 202.478.6046   www.aplu.org


September/October Letter to the Faculty

September/October 2015 Update

Dear Engineering Faculty and Staff:

It is that time of year when the beauty of fall has transformed into the big job of cleaning up leaves and winterizing the gardens/house.  Our family had the greatest of ambitions to all out decorate for Halloween, but settled for making sure the walkways were leaf-free and the pumpkins were extra entertaining.   We lit up in pumpkin orange a lion face, a spooky tree, and to my son’s pure, unbridled joy a “Frankenscary”.  The scramble of fall is not limited to home – it permeates into the flurry of initiatives in our classes, departments, and research labs as we realize the semester is more than half over, but the projects are not….   It was due to this scramble and travel on key initiatives, such as escorting two outstanding Honor’s College students to the Global Grand Challenges Conference in Beijing, China, that I’ve combined both September and October’s update into one.   We have continued to strive to proactively make connections, facilitate resources, and help each of you as you seek to advance and grow your scholarly activities.

Department of Defense (DoD):

You may have noticed that we have had a series of events to help you develop relationships with DoD researchers and program managers (PMs).  DoD can be a valuable partner for your research – it requires developing a relationship with the lab researchers to embark on project concepts that meet their mission or needs.  The concepts then evolve into steady research support.

An opportunity coming up next week is a visit by Dr. Alma Wickenden, Associate for Research at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL).  She will be on campus Thursday, November 12 and will present an open session at 9:00 am titled “ARL’s Technical Program and Opportunities for University Engagement.” Faculty, research staff, and graduate students interested in work related to the Department of Defense are encourage to attend. To register for the session and find the location, please click here: http://goo.gl/forms/16bB1Cnjsc Additional opportunities will be available throughout the day to meet with Dr. Wickenden to discuss your specific research and how to engage in possible collaboration with ARL researchers. For more information, or to sign up for an individual session, contact Shannon Kokkonen (7-3126 or smkokko@mtu.edu).

I just returned from spending two days at the Army Research Lab (ARL) Open Campus http://www.arl.army.mil/opencampus/ and got to meet numerous researchers working on projects that overlap with our work at Tech.  We had a cohort of 8 of us representing Tech and will be coordinating to point each of you to opportunities.  Posters of the research we got to see, each with a section on the collaborations they are seeking, are available here.  Contact information for the researcher is included.  We are happy to provide templates of emails you can send to introduce yourself to begin forming a relationship for collaboration and funding.

This process can be overwhelming, so Paul Hoppe (pdhoppe@mtu.edu)developed a Shedding Light on DoD Research Funding seminar, which provided an introduction for those new to seeking funding from DoD.  The presentation and example quad charts are posted on the engineering research blog.  Both materials have been crafted such that the information is highly accessible (i.e. less complicated) to encourage participation from those of us new to DoD.

Upcoming efforts for Nov/Dec/Spring:

We’ve all had outstanding students that are prolific writers and those who struggle. Via a partnership with the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (SWE), we are working to pilot writing groups http://tinyurl.com/pdmjyre that provide goal setting and accountability to increase writing productivity.  If you or your students would like to get involved, look for details on an informational meeting in early December.

The ADVANCE team’s progress in September and October has included task forces that analyzed data ranging from proposal submission and success rates to retention to graduate student mentoring trends.  We used this in an implementation Kaizen to arrive at a Matrix Organizational Process for continuous improvement.  Our overarching theme will be faculty retention and have selected three initial issues that, based upon our preliminary studies, have had an impact on retention at Michigan Tech. The first is in credentialing for research productivity, the second is unit climate based and the third is dual career challenges.  We have structured this effort to be widely inclusive.  If you want to be involved, let us know!

Centers, Institutes, and Core Facilities Networking Event:

The VPR and CoE hosted a Centers, Institutes, and Core Facility Open House on October 29th, which was open to all faculty and staff across campus.   The format was an hour of 2-minute Tech Talks by each center followed by a wine & cheese social where each center had a poster on display and there was time for faculty and staff to talk, network, ask questions, and learn more in-depth about what each entity has to offer.  The slides from the Tech Talks are available on the engineering research blog. Some key data we shared at the beginning was that the number of single PI proposals submitted to NSF far exceeds the number of multi-PI collaborative proposals submitted.  However, the funding rate and dollar amounts of the multi-PI collaborative proposals far exceeds that of single PI proposals.  I draw attention to this because, while the event was valuable, I was disappointed that it was predominantly centers talking to centers with too few faculty engaging. The data suggests that if our faculty do engage in collaborative relationships within our centers and institutes, our funding efforts will be more successful.  I’ve also noted a lack of awareness of the equipment and resources we have available on campus via our core facilities, which directly limits ease of obtaining and quality of data for our research.   I’d welcome your comments and thoughts on why you may not have attended including what barriers you see to engaging with centers/institutes or learning what resources are available via core facilities.  Ideas for next steps (tours of individual core facilities?) are welcome.

Want to get involved?

As we ponder questions on how we can best serve you, your research group, I’ve tossed around the idea of forming an ad hoc committee for assistant professors, one for associate, and one for full professors.  I envision meeting quarterly to get feedback on current challenges and obstacles to your own productivity.

To facilitate dissemination of opportunities (RFPs, seminars, more), please subscribe to our blog, http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-research/. My strategy, thus far, has been to post all requests for proposals, workshop/award, and innovation opportunities to this blog. I’ve reserved email to selectively forwarding the most relevant RFP to individuals or groups.

To be most effective in this later effort, I’ve been working to learn everyone’s research efforts by a) talking to each of your chairs and center directors, b) extending invitations for in-person meetings on each funded grant/initiative, c) skimming your publications posted in TechToday, and d) discussions at networking/related events.   If I have not interfaced with you via any of these mechanisms, please send me an email with either a one-page summary of your efforts or an invite to briefly meet for coffee/tea.

In closing, please share your ideas and enthusiasm to further build the engineering research and innovation infrastructure here at Tech.    All the best as you too get ready for our first snow!

Best Regards,

Adrienne