Friday, May 17, 2019

African American literary studies, grant writing, and productivity

Books for a grant-funded reading group, 2009

A little while back, I noticed some debates about this article “Productivity, prominence, and the effects of academic environment,” where the authors point out that faculty work environments shape a variety of outcomes. Some of the discussions about the article led me to think about how my own environment had affected aspects of my productivity.

Since I started working at my university in fall 2003, I’ve applied, as lead, on about 53 grants. In addition, I’ve been included on about another dozen or so grants as a contributor. My numbers are perhaps high for a literature scholar, but I rank low among my colleagues in STEM, who are socialized to apply even more.

Two major things happened in 2003 that prepared me to apply to grants during the course of my career.
1.) Senior African American literature scholar Maryemma Graham from the University of Kansas began including me on her grant projects. No other scholar in our field, except maybe Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has been as successful as Graham earning major grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) and other agencies.

2.) My university had an active grants training program and culture. They offered workshops and other incentives for applying to grants. There were a couple of officers on the pre-award side of the grants office who encouraged me to apply to various awards. They helped and sometimes guided me with the tricky aspects of budgets and other items.

In retrospect, combining Graham’s assistance with the internal assistance I was receiving ensured that I would think about grants and public programming projects that was not natural in the field of African American literary studies. A couple of my colleagues in the English department were also actively applying for grants, so that solidified my interest in the practice as well.

The environment I was working in was crucial for my productivity with grant writing.

Humanities grants and the Graham Effect
Grant writing and the Teri/Patience Effect
NEH Summer Institute: Frederick Douglass and Literary Crossroads

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