SAGE Musings: Selected NSF Programs of Interest to 2YC Faculty

Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College
Author Profile
published Feb 7, 2019 9:48am

As the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project comes to a close, many of the faculty members involved in the project have expressed an interest in obtaining funding the support the continuation of their work. That's wonderful! We would like to see this work continue, too. Furthermore, the goals of the SAGE 2YC project are of high interest in higher education right now: supporting the academic success of all students, broadening participation in the geosciences and in STEM, and promoting students' professional pathways. In many cases, continuing the work of the SAGE 2YC project -- especially on your own campus -- won't require any funding, or can be supported by internal funding from your institution. But if what you envision requires a significant influx of funding, there are NSF programs that might be of interest. Here are a few to consider, listed in alphabetical order. Each of the descriptions below is taken verbatim from the National Science Foundation (NSF) website.

  • Advanced Technological Education (ATE)
    "With an emphasis on two-year Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program focuses on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy. The program involves partnerships between academic institutions (grades 7-12, IHEs) and industry to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary institution school levels. The ATE program supports curriculum development; professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; career pathways; and other activities."
  • Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: (IUSE: EHR)
    "The IUSE: EHR program is a core NSF undergraduate STEM education program that seeks to improve the effectiveness of undergraduate STEM education for both majors and non-majors. The program is open to application from all institutions of higher education and associated organizations. NSF places high value on educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace. In pursuit of this goal, IUSE: EHR supports projects that have the potential to improve student learning in STEM through development of new curricular materials and methods of instruction, and development of new assessment tools to measure student learning. In addition to innovative work at the frontier of STEM education, this program also encourages replications of research studies at different types of institutions and with different student bodies to produce deeper knowledge about the effectiveness and transferability of findings."
  • Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Pathways into Geoscience (IUSE: GEOPATHS)
    "The primary goal of the IUSE: GEOPATHS funding opportunity is to increase the number of undergraduate students interested in pursuing undergraduate degrees and/or post-graduate degrees in geoscience through the design and testing of novel approaches for engaging students in authentic, career-relevant experiences in geoscience. In order to broaden participation in the geosciences, engaging undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented groups or from non-geoscience degree programs is a priority. The IUSE: GEOPATHS solicitation features two funding tracks: (1) Engaging students in the geosciences through extra-curricular experiences and training activities (GEOPATHS-EXTRA), and (2) Improving pathways into the geosciences through institutional collaborations and transfer (GEOPATHS-IMPACT)."
    The IUSE: GEOPATHS program is so well-aligned with SAGE 2YC project goals that we have a web page of example GeoPaths projects.
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
    "The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program."
  • Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM)
    "The National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program addresses the need for a high quality STEM workforce in STEM disciplines supported by the program and for the increased success of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who are pursuing associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).... [T]he program provides awards to Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) to fund scholarships and to advance the adaptation, implementation, and study of effective evidence-based curricular and co-curricular activities that support recruitment, retention, transfer (if appropriate), student success, academic/career pathways, and graduation in STEM."

If you decide to apply for external funding to support your work, there are some logistical questions you'll need to answer. How does your institution handle grant applications? Is there a grants office? If you're applying for funding from NSF, is there someone at your institution who is familiar with that process, and with Fastlane? If it's a collaboration across institutions, how will that collaboration work in terms of the proposal process? In my experience, it's a good idea to start talking to people about a potential grant application at least a few months before the application is due. Fortunately, most programs have either an annual application deadline or a rolling deadline. I've also found it invaluable to read examples of successful proposals to a program, and I've found that PIs are often wiling to share the text of a proposal. You can find out who is currently funded through any of NSF's programs through links on the NSF program web pages. For example, on each of the pages I've linked to above, there is a link to "What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)."

If you decide to write a grant proposal to NSF, best of luck, and don't give up if your first attempt is unsuccessful! Many outstanding proposals -- including the one to fund SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents -- are declined the first time they are submitted. Using the feedback from reviewers to revise, refine, and strengthen your arguments is one possible path to success.

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