Grant Sprint Stories: the Teaching Engineering Equity Center (DRAFT)
Seizing the opportunity for a Grant Sprint
In November of 2021, the National Science Foundation released a call for grant proposals toward their Broadening Participation in Engineering (BPE) program. Former Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Joanna Millunchick, was drawn to Track 4 which invited higher education institutions to imagine and plan for the development of their own Center for Equity in Engineering. With the grant deadline established only two months away along with the rapid approach of the semester break and holiday season, Millunchick had to act quickly.
Just months earlier in August of 2021, Joanna Millunchick had enlisted the help of the Center for Socially Engaged Design to facilitate a 4-day Design Sprint. During this Design Sprint, a team selected by Millunchick developed a framework based on two years of focused effort toward integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for all Michigan Engineering undergraduates. In a moment of serendipity, the NSF’s call for proposals presented Millunchick with the opportunity to further develop and potentially fund the framework she and this small group of faculty experts, staff, and students had developed just months prior.
Recognizing the potential of the opportunity, Joanna Millunchick reached out to C-SED Strategic Director Ann Verhey-Henke to share her idea of facilitating a Grant Sprint on December 15th and 16th, 2021.
Gathering the team
In preparation for the Grant Sprint, a group of faculty, students, and administrators was formed. The diversity of the group made the experience and results of the TEE Center Grant Sprint particularly unique.
With such a diverse range of expertise represented in the participants, Millunchick ensured that multiple perspectives within the College of Engineering were baked into the TEE Center’s foundation from the very beginning. The co-developers of this proposal expanded beyond a typical faculty-only grant, building a much more holistic approach that included faculty perspective as well as administrative, and student perspective.
Gathering in the C-SED Collaboration Space, representatives from the College of Engineering, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and multiple roles dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion convened, ready to put their own expertise towards a shared goal. With a range of perspectives represented in the participants, the potential for rich conversation and creative ideation multiplied as the group utilized principles of divergent and convergent thinking throughout the day.
Facilitating the Grant Sprint
Establishing the long-term goal: The group collaboratively developed a shared vision by converging on a single Long Term Goal for the Teaching Engineering Equity (TEE) Center by answering questions such as:
- What are the cultural, organizational, structural, and pedagogical changes that are needed to transform Michigan’s College of Engineering?
- What problems do you think this Center’s specific objectives solve?
- What are the outcomes you hope this Center achieves?
- What makes Michigan particularly prepared to take on this work?
Objectives Established: With the long-term goal established, the group developed specific objectives that would ensure the successful achievement of the long-term goal.
The group individually generated draft objectives before working together to converge on 3 key objectives for the proposal.
Welcoming Critique: Next, the facilitators invited the group to imagine how the project might fail and encouraged everyone to write their concerns as questions instead of statements. By reframing concerns into questions, the team could engage these challenges with the intent to overcome them instead of viewing them as insurmountable roadblocks.
Collaborative Proposal Outline: The remainder of the day was spent getting into the details of each section of the proposal. Engaging in a focused discussion of each section’s content, the team ultimately generated a rough outline for the grant proposal.
This outline session resulted in a consensus about what each section will include, setting up the writers for Day 2 with a solid starting point.
Prep for Day 2: The day ended by assigning each participant a writing role for Day 2. Everyone was able to leave with a fresh and defined vision, knowing that they’d be back in the morning, rested and energized for Day 2.
Unlike the traditional grant process that is often characterized by isolated, unproductive work, Day 2 of the TEE Center Grant Sprint was full of energy. By the end of the day, the team wrote the first draft of their grant proposal.
Reflection: Before the writing began, the facilitator invited the group to share any concerns that might have arisen since the end of Day 1. When a concern arose, the group returned to the relevant discussion from the previous day, allowing for additional iteration as they reframed the concerns as possibilities.
The importance of “hot ink”: The concept of “hot ink” is crucial to the Grant Sprint process. Ann Verhey-Henke emphasizes how those in the Academy will often self-edit before even putting pen to paper. With the “hot ink” principle, individuals resist self-editing and are encouraged to safely share their ideas at every stage.
This Grant Sprint process fosters creativity and ingenuity because participants are encouraged to think freely. This emphasis on “hot ink” allows for originality and a kaleidoscope of ideas that don’t have to be perfect on the first try.
Draft Session: Utilizing the “hot ink” method described above, each team member took on the writing of their designated proposal section. If an individual reached a sticking point in their writing, they made note of any additional questions or points to clarify with the whole group.
Regroup: After everyone completed the initial draft of their section, the team regrouped to discuss the questions and points of clarification that arose during the first draft session. Once addressed, the team transitioned to the revision stage during which team members rotated from the section they initially wrote to a new section which they would revise.
This process was repeated a second time with the remaining sections of the proposal. At the end of the second session, a well-developed draft of the TEE Center grant proposal had been created. To wrap up, the team discussed any outstanding gaps and key steps remaining in the proposal and identified the individuals who would complete the tasks required to meet the NSF deadline.
What happened next
The 2-day Grant Sprint facilitated by C-SED resulted in a grant proposal that was funded by the National Science Foundation, securing $1.2M for the creation of the Teaching Engineering Equity (TEE) Center.
The Grant Sprint process not only helped the TEE Center obtain financial support but also created the opportunity for two important days of work that resulted in a well-developed approach that baked diverse perspectives into its foundation.
Since receiving funding, the TEE Center continues to work toward achieving the long-term goal articulated at the beginning of the sprint – to create curricula that support and educate engineers in centering equity in their work. You can find the TEE Center website here.
Interested in collaborating with C-SED to facilitate or design a Grant Sprint of your own? Contact Ann Verhey-Henke here.
List of people involved:
- Kimberly Burton, Executive Director for Culture, Community, and Equity
- John Callewaert, College of Engineering Director of Strategic Projects and Research Investigator, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research
- Michelle Campbell, Program Director of Culture, Grants, and Advancement
- Deb Covington, Director of Partnerships, Outreach, and Retention
- Nosa Edoimioya, Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering
- Patty Jaimes, Instructional Consultant for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at CRLT-E
- Tershia Pinder-Grover, Director of CRLT-E
- Joanna Millunchick, former Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and current Dean of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University
- Lauren Shakleford, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager
- Heidi Sherick, Director of Leadership Development at Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
- Leia Stirling, Associate Professor of Industrial & Operations Engineering