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
"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
"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,"