Undergraduates learn about writing grants



Ana Fleming interviews Hannah Downing about her participation in the Spring Grant-a-Thon—an event to bring together local organizations and students—to explore options and creating opportunities in writing grants (for funding). 

What made you want to be a part of the Grant-a-Thon? Why were you interested in the event? How did you learn about it?

I learned about the Grant-a-thon from Kirsten Wilcox when she sent out one of the very early emails announcing the event. I’m pretty sure I heard about it in the fall semester before there was even a concrete date set.

I wanted to be part of the Grant-a-thon because it was diving into a type of writing I did not have any experience with, but a type that also seemed very important. As a writer, English major, and eventual job-seeker, I wanted to gain some basic skills in this field of writing. As a writer, I always feel like it is good to be exposed to as many different genres and types of writing as possible. You never know when or where it will help you.

The Grant-a-Thon was an all-day affair. What was the day like, in terms of structure? Were there any parts of the event or segments of the day that you enjoyed better than others?

The day was very structured. It was nice to have an agenda given to us, so we had an idea of how the day was going to go right from the start. I liked that we had a keynote speaker; I had not even considered that was going to be something at the event, but it helped to hear about writing grants from someone very experienced in the field, before going to our small groups. It gave us some background knowledge to build off of, especially for people like me who did not know much to begin with about grant writing. I honestly enjoyed all parts of the day pretty equally, as they were all intriguing and educational in their own ways.

What do you feel like you gained out of, or took away from, the experience?

I feel like I gained a whole new idea of what I can do with my writing skills. I honestly had not even realized, before this event, that looking for and applying to grants is such a rigorous progress that people needed specific skills to do it. Further, I had not realized some people even get hired for a position that does just that. I can take away a lot of this and use it when I am looking for jobs and ways to use my writing skills. There is probably much more out there, types of work I do not know about yet, where I can use my writing skills.

Is the Grant-a-Thon an event you would encourage fellow students to participate in if it is offered again next year? If so, how would you encourage the students to prepare for the event (perhaps questions for the speakers, etc.)? Is there anything in particular they should pay attention to during the event?

I would definitely encourage other students to take part in this event if it is offered again. I brought along a friend to the event. Even though she is not an English major, or as attached to writing as I am, I knew she was looking into health administration as a career, and knowing how to effectively search for and apply to grants could be very helpful in that field. Therefore, I would encourage many of my fellow students to attend, even if they are not looking into a career of writing. These skills to could apply to many organizations and jobs. I would encourage fellow students to look up organizations they are interested in and discover they are funded. For attendees: learn about the speakers ahead of time, so you can prepare questions in advance of your participation.

Coming from the Grant-a-Thon, if one of your peers expressed interest in grant-writing, what would be one critical piece of advice you could now give them?

I would tell them to read all of the instructions and follow them exactly as they are written!! I could not believe how many applicants do not do that. Knowing this—follow the instructions— seemed to give an applicant a good leg up.

Do you think events like the Grant-a-Thon are useful to students in thinking about professional goals, speaking from your personal experience?

Definitely. As I mentioned before, this experience helped open my mind to just how many things I can do with my writing skills and to the fact there are so many jobs out there that you may not know about, simply because you have not been exposed to them. Workshops like these, especially day-long ones, are a great opportunity to actually learn the basics of a topic and skill, like grant writing. Shorter workshops may not feel as helpful because they may not go into the depth longer workshops do.

Are there any other comments you wish to make regarding the event?

I love the fact we were given a book! It will be a great resource to have if anyone needs to look into the things we discussed during the event, and it can allow us to look further into the skills we learned.

By Ana V. Fleming, MCD intern, with thanks to Hannah Downing