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Released July 30, 2004

RESEARCH FUNDING AT SOUTHERN MISS
CLIMBS TO $69 MILLION IN 2004

HATTIESBURG - For the sixth straight year, external research funding at The University of Southern Mississippi has increased, reaching a record $69 million in fiscal year 2004.

Statistics released this week from Sponsored Programs Administration show total funding up $1.9 million from 2003. This year's total haul surpassed last year's external funding record of $67 million - which itself was a $6 million increase from 2002. Over the last six years, the annual size of the research enterprise has grown by almost $50 million.

"In our continuing mission to distinguish The University of Southern Mississippi as a world-class institution, we are not satisfied by maintaining the status quo," Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames said. "As evidenced by their ability to reach new funding records with each passing year, our faculty and staff have shown a determination to raise the university's standards of excellence, as well as their own."

Not only has funding continued to increase, but also the number of participants seeking external sponsors for research has broadened significantly. This year, 472 projects and grants were funded, compared to 409 in 2003 - a 15 percent increase.

Moreover, faculty submitted significantly more proposals in 2004 - 712 in all. This was an 11 percent increase from 2003.

External funding plays an increasingly vital role in supporting the university's core mission. Among other things, funds for cutting-edge research projects buy much needed equipment, pay students, and provide other margins of excellence. Both undergraduate and graduate students are now routinely involved in many of these research projects.

"The faculty and staff work very hard on securing grants and contracts from various sources to fund their research and scholarly activities," said SPA Director Connie Wyldmon. "We in the office of Sponsored Research Administration are fortunate to be working with productive faculty and staff who are so adept at writing successful proposals."

These proposals request support for activities that reflect the diverse interests and expertise of university faculty and staff. The applications included submissions to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and NASA, to name a few.

The university has established the goal of reaching and sustaining a research enterprise of $100 million annually.

"Continued growth this year in our research enterprise is a tremendous tribute to the hard work and perseverance of our faculty," said Dr. Cecil Burge, vice president for research and economic development.

"During last year and for the school year beginning this fall, we have been able to attract and hire a quality cadre of new faculty. With the addition of these competitive junior faculty, we are poised to move forward confidently to our $100 million goal."

Some junior faculty members have already been successful in acquiring significant funding during the very early stages of their careers. In today's educational climate, Burge said, acquisition of external funding for research, scholarship, and creative activities -- even by junior faculty -- is critical.

Dr. Tulio Sulbaran, an assistant professor in the school of construction who submitted 12 proposals in 2003, said teaching and research are not separate functions of a university faculty member.

"When we participate in a project with NSF (National Science Foundation) or MDOT (Mississippi Department of Transportation) or any other agency, we always have our students involved - from having them research the project to budgeting and time constraints. These are things they can't necessarily learn in the classroom."

Adopting a "cash flow concept" that targets small, medium and large funding projects, Sulbaran said his department is able to prepare a proposal - from research to submission - in about a month.

To write a successful proposal, Sulbaran said, "You must listen to what (the agency) needs. It's hard to sell an apple to someone who needs an orange."

Because most funding projects are so competitive, Sulbaran said the proposal has to be "quick and to the point." Finally, a good proposal has to "flow," he said.

"If you receive a rejection from an agency, we've found that you can use their feedback to improve subsequent proposals. Hopefully, every time you submit a proposal, you get better," Sulbaran said.

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August 5, 2004 5:03 PM