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January 23, 2017   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Graduate School expands support for training grants

Graduate School expands support for training grants

Sam Fahmy

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By Sam Fahmy | January 23, 2017
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The University of Georgia is stepping up the support that faculty members receive as they apply for training grants that help attract the world's most promising graduate students.

Karen Young recently joined the Graduate School as the university's first training grants coordinator, and she works with faculty and grants coordinators across campus to identify funding sources and to facilitate the submission of training grants.

"Training grants provide students with the resources they need to pursue a graduate degree, and they also elevate the reputation of programs and the entire university," said Graduate School Dean Suzanne Barbour. "They're marks of excellence that recognize programs that have been thoroughly evaluated and judged to be among the best in the nation."

The university administers several long-standing training grants, including an NIH-funded predoctoral training grant in genetics that has been funded for more than 40 years. The university has three additional NIH-funded training grants in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and College of Veterinary Medicine.

In recent years, UGA faculty members have received additional, high-profile training grants, including a $3 million National Science Foundation award for an interdisciplinary program in disease ecology, a $495,000 NSF award for a leadership training program known as GS-LEAD and a nearly $1.5 million NIH award for a program focused on tuberculosis and HIV in Uganda.

Barbour noted that the amount of research funding that UGA faculty members receive has increased dramatically in recent years, and that a vibrant and productive research environment makes the institution better positioned to garner highly competitive training grants. Training grants further raise the visibility of the institution, making it easier to attract outstanding students who in turn support the research mission. She noted that while research grant proposals focus on a specific researcher's record of accomplishment and potential for the future, training grant applications require faculty members to think more holistically.

"You're looking for a critical mass of faculty in a given area of study who can provide students with outstanding research opportunities," Barbour said. "Programs also need to demonstrate positive student outcomes and placements."

Young supports the entire grants process, from mining databases to search for funding sources to providing institutional statistics and developing proposal ideas and budgets. In the future, she also will assist with post-award requirements, such as progress reports and effort compliance.

"I view my role as being that of a partner who supports the needs of the faculty member," said Young, who previously worked with 27 agencies and local governments as a Georgia Department of Community Affairs grants specialist.

Provost Pamela Whitten noted that the enhanced training grant support for faculty members is part of a broader effort to elevate graduate education at UGA.

To boost the recruitment of students in fields that align with its Signature Research Themes and the needs of Georgia's knowledge-based economy, the university recently created two new graduate fellowship programs. The Georgia Research Education Award Traineeship, or GREAT Fellowship, provides an annual compensation of $27,000 and a tuition waiver to 10 elite doctoral students, while the Georgia Impact Now fellows program, or GAIN Fellowship, provides $20,000 and a tuition waiver to 10 elite master's students. The university also has expanded its Research Incentive Assistantships Voluntary Incentive Program, which offers matching funds for additional doctoral research assistants when faculty members are awarded grants or contracts that pay the cost of full-time, in-state tuition for one or more graduate research assistants.

"Graduate students are on the front lines of our research enterprise, pursuing knowledge and making discoveries that advance health and economic vitality," Whitten said. "The very best graduate students have many universities to choose from, and our goal is to ensure that they choose the University of Georgia."

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