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All-College Meeting, August 2014 - Andy Schulz, Associate Dean for Research

Good morning.  It’s great to see all of you here. You know you’re no longer the new guy when you start doing things for the second time. When I stood before you a year ago, I had been in State College for one week. Now I am a little bit older and considerably wiser. But I still feel as I did last year when I said that I have my dream job, which is: Assisting faculty in achieving their aspirations.

I want to begin by noting that my portfolio has evolved some over the past year, and may continue to evolve over the course of this year. Several important changes:

  • Oversight for information technology. Technology figures prominently in the college’s strategic plan and is indispensable for the teaching mission and research enterprise of the college. I’m very excited to welcome Steve Sobotta as director of AAIT. He has already made it clear since taking over on July 1 that he will provide vigorous leadership in this area.
  • Oversight for strategic planning in the college. You will hear more about the plan from Dean Korner. Getting involved in the strategic planning for the college has been a great way to learn about our schools and departments, as well as the college and the University.
  • Finally, faculty development is becoming a clearer focus of my office.

I spent a great deal of time in my first year learning about the culture of research/creative activity in the college, which, as you know, is incredibly diverse, even within schools/departments. I am finding the ways I can best support these wide-ranging activities, taking into account that one size will not fit all. I am advocating for the significance and quality of our work in forums like the University Research Council. I am also identifying strategies for increasing the scope/reach/visibility of our work, including spending a lot of time networking across campus with my counterparts in the University’s various colleges and institutes.

In addition, I have been collecting and analyzing data about aspects of the college’s research enterprise, including our sponsored research portfolio—externally funded projects that are contractual obligations between Penn State and funding agencies (not grants to individual faculty).

Here are a few slides to illustrate recent trends (thanks to Barbara Cutler and Michelle Stine for compiling the data). I would describe this information as “revealing” rather than encouraging and indicative of some future courses of action.

External Funding for Research and Outreach

We have some work to do. 2010-11 was the high watermark, and there has been a downward tick since (uneven 20-year trend). On positive side: looking over the past 20 years, this chart contains four of the six best years for proposals. We have a good chance of breaking $1 million for 2013-14—an up-tick in spite of the end of several major collaborative projects.


Faculty External Grant Submissions by Unit

It's interesting to note that the number is relatively stable, but the distribution has changed. Submissions by Landscape Architecture and Architecture faculty have dropped substantially (LA, 15 to 6; Arch, 11 to 4). Still, some are very grant active. This is significant because of the many opportunities for faculty in these areas. On the other hand, there have been increases in Music, Theatre, and SoVA. We need to build on these.

Number of Funding Agencies by Year

This is significant as a distinctive characteristic of our sponsored research portfolio. Our research portfolio is much larger than some other colleges, where the majority of funding might come from NIH or NSF.

Five-Year Sponsor Distribution (Awards)

Nonetheless, we are overwhelmingly reliant on the federal government. There is a head wind in the form of diminishing federal dollars and increasing competition for them. So, with this data in mind (as well as other information), we have identified some priorities and initiatives to help us achieve the goals outlined in our strategic plan.

Research Office: Priorities and Initiatives

1.     Faculty Development: We will be devoting considerable time to this. There is a mentoring program for 13 new faculty. We want to help them achieve aspirations; foster a culture of research and creative practice; and forge an interdisciplinary community among them. But, most importantly, we want to develop opportunities for faculty at all stages. We will have a calendar of events with workshops, research forums, and other programs. There is much already going on, but we want to think in a more deliberate way. One goal: to make sure that we have applicants every year for major opportunities for individual faculty, such as NEH, ACLS, Guggenheim.

2.     Research Office: Last year we developed the Research Office website and will be continuing to refine/encourage use. One new element: we now have a grad assistant to help on a range of issues, including identifying funding opportunities, tracking faculty interests, and publicizing research activities. It's also a professional development opportunity for the student, training in a range of skills.

3.     Increasing Sponsored Research: Our major initiative is launching the Arts and Design Research Institute in 16 Borland, the space formerly occupied by StudioLab. ADRI will provide seed funding, technology and other support to projects with strong potential to attract external funding. It is under the direction of Andy Belser, professor of theatre, with an advisory board. We are starting by hand-picking some projects, but it will eventually become a competition.

4.     Showcasing Faculty Work: Strategic goal of raising visibility. We plan to refashion the Borland Gallery into a project space that highlights research from across the college in innovative and interactive ways. We are working with a team from across the units, but it is still a project in formation. We hope to launch the repurposed space in early 2015.

Still on the subject of increasing visibility, please make sure to keep me informed of your work and accomplishments. The more I know about your work, the more possible connections I can forge and the more I can promote our collective efforts. I had the opportunity during the course of my first year to talk with many of you about your work. I plan to continue those conversations this year and talk with as many more of you as I can.

Finally, there will be an announcement coming soon for our internal Faculty Research Grants. There are a few important changes to the guidelines, so read carefully. The submission deadline is in mid-October.