LTU gets federal grant to boost research infrastructure

SOUTHFIELD—Building a robust scientific research infrastructure at Michigan’s smaller, private universities is the goal of a new federal grant received by Lawrence Technological University.

The 18-month, $76,818 grant comes under the National Science Foundation’s Growing Access for Nationally Transformative Equity and Diversity (GRANTED) program. GRANTED is a major investment by NSF in the capacity of emerging research institutions and a recognition of the impact that infrastructure has on faculty to engage in research on a larger scale. GRANTED is an NSF program specifically focused on building capacity within institutions.

The grant, “Strategically Engaging Private Institutions at Building Research Infrastructure, Networks, and Knowledge (BRINK) in the Emergence of Research,” will fund seminars on making smaller, private institutions more effective in securing grants. Universities like LTU typically have just a handful of staffers working on that goal–and some have none at all. Kathryn Wrench, LTU executive director of sponsored research, understands that challenge and wants to help solve it. “Through this grant, we anticipate being able to support about 100 people in training and mentoring about how to facilitate conversations and strategic change that grows research,” she said. “It’s a large-scale training and mentoring project that aims to create a sustainable administrative support in a network of institutions across Michigan.”

Matthew Cole, interim dean of the LTU College of Business and Information Technology, said the grant will also benefit members of Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities (MICU), a consortium of 25 private, non-profit colleges and universities across the state, of which LTU is a member.

“We intend to provide research support infrastructure among private and small public institutions,” Cole said. “We want to train research administrators and research development staff to communicate effectively with the stakeholders at their institutions—with faculty, but also other administrators and those outside of their institutions, to build a strategic plan to increase research, unique approaches to grant writing, or other skills that may be valuable to their institutions.”

The first activity funded by the grant will be a BRINK Conference at LTU in June 2024. The intended audience is research managers, research assistants, and training and development specialists—primarily from private institutions, but also open to other small colleges and universities—replicating the networked structure of institutions in the Florida Research Development Alliance, a partner in the funded grant. Research administrators and development professionals will receive paid training opportunities and mentoring on engaging stakeholders in research development across organizations.

Then, in 2025, the grant will fund another conference where the institutions will share their best practices in building research capacity and successful outcomes over the year. The results will also become articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals.

“The 2025 event will be an open national conference for anyone who wants to share their experiences in building research capacity at their institutions,” Cole said.

Between the two conferences, there will be quarterly online follow-up mentoring and coaching sessions.

The training will use the Appreciative Inquiry and SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results) techniques developed over the career of LTU business professor Jacqueline Stavros.

Appreciative Inquiry is a strengths-based, positive approach to leadership development and organizational and societal change. It distinguishes itself from other change models by focusing on the best of what is and could be in a team or organization, and using that as a platform to build future directions.

SOAR takes Appreciative Inquiry and applies it to strategic thinking, planning, and leading that invites any person at any level in an organization to create strategy and strategic plans through shared conversations, collaboration, and a commitment to action ( SOAR invites stakeholders into a conversation about Strengths, what the organization does well; Opportunities, what are the possibilities and innovations; and Aspirations, what gives people purposeful work that reflects what they value. Finally, SOAR encourages conversations about Results that are meaningful and measurable. SOAR has helped individuals, teams, and entrepreneurs in for-profit, non-profit, government, and Fortune 500 organizations.

“The training workshops will teach attendees how to use SOAR to think and plan strategically about the practices and processes within their respective research enterprises,” Stavros said. “RARD professionals will have the skillsets necessary for building strategic capacity in the research enterprise, such as communication, emotional intelligence, time management, teamwork, and strategic thinking and planning.”

Stavros added: “Over two decades of research and work from SOAR practitioners around the world, we have learned that conversations about strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results build trust, strengthen relationships, create innovations, fuel productivity, inspire action, and generate positive change. SOAR-based conversations create a positive frame for strategic direction, plans, leadership, daily operations, and the well-being of an organization’s employees and the people it impacts.”

Stavros is the co-author of several best-selling business books on AI and SOAR, including “Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement,” and “Learning to SOAR: Creating Strategy that Inspires Innovation and Engagement.”

Building research funding is a major goal of LTU President Tarek M. Sobh, who joined the university as its provost and chief academic officer in 2020 and became president in 2022.

Lawrence Technological University,, is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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