Asee peer logo

A Take on the Process of Proposal Development and the Scaling of Teams Towards Development of Competitive Proposals: A “Group Genius” Approach

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Working Together: Approaches to Inclusivity and Interdisciplinarity

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Pedro E. Arce Tennessee Technological University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. P. E. Arce is University Distinguished Faculty Fellow, Professor and Past Department Chair of Chemical Engineering at TTU, Cookeville, TN

visit author page


Andrea Arce-Trigatti Tallahassee Community College

visit author page

Andrea Arce-Trigatti holds a PhD in Education with a Learning Environments and Educational Studies concentration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is an interdisciplinary scholar and educational evaluator whose research centers on cultural studies in education, issues in multicultural education, educational policy studies, advancements in critical and creative thinking, and collaborative learning strategies. Through her research, she leverages a myriad of educational research methods including historical, anthropological, ethnographic, quantitative, and qualitative approaches to understand student learning via aspects of educational psychology, sociology, and cognitive techniques. As a founding member of the award-winning Renaissance Foundry Research Group, she has helped to develop and investigate the pedagogical techniques utilized to enhance critical and creative thinking at interdisciplinary interfaces as they apply to various disciplines including engineering education.

visit author page


Stephanie Jorgensen

visit author page

Dr. Stephanie N. Jorgensen holds a PhD in Engineering with a Chemical Engineering concentration from Tennessee Technological University (TTU). She is currently on the Faculty in the TTU Department of Chemical Engineering. Her research interests focus on engineering education as well as the development and validation of mathematical and physical models for better understanding of species transport through healing wounds and predicting the effects of facilitated wound closure techniques (e.g., suturing, etc.) on resultant scarring. She is currently a contributing research member of the Renaissance Foundry Research Group.

visit author page


Robby Sanders Tennessee Technological University

visit author page

Dr. Robby Sanders is an Associate Professor at Tennessee Technological University (TTU) in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He obtained his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from TTU in 1995, and he obtained his Master’s degree and his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1998 and 2001, respectively. His research efforts address 1) innovation-driven learning with a focus on student learning at disciplinary interfaces, 2) clinical diagnostics and therapeutics for diseases of the lungs, 3) wound healing, and 4) performance of soft gel materials. Recent courses taught by Dr. Sanders include Clinical Immersion at Disciplinary Interfaces, Transport in Biochemical and Biological Processes, Hemodynamics and Microrheology of Blood Suspensions and Other Biofluids, Transfer Science I: Heat Transfer, and Transfer Science III: Diffusion and Diffusive-Convective Mass Transfer.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The identification of funding opportunities and associated proposal development activities are interconnected items, but the process of writing for grant and proposal opportunities is not necessarily linear. In actuality, the process is often highly iterative, moving in different directions by way of the communication and interpretation of those working in the team to develop the proposal. For example, sometimes an idea stews for a good while in the form of an initial concept on which a team of colleagues continues to ponder and explore a direction for a particular topic and the viability of the project. These conversations are critical in bringing the most effective articulation of “proposal pieces”, and the multitude of points of view, from a collaborating team, is a powerful pool of avenues in arriving to the most competitive proposal: In short, a “group-genius” approach is far more productive than a “solo-center” mode. For example, the working group may have continual conversations, read, try things in the lab, ponder and pilot aspects of the work, etc., before even engaging with the idea of exploring a funding opportunity. Other times, an intriguing Program Solicitation (e.g., NSF), Request for Applications (NIH), Broad Agency Announcement (DOD), Funding Opportunity Announcement (DOE), or another communication piece from funding agencies may trigger an idea-generation from which proposal development coalesces from various seemingly unconnected pieces already in place within the collaborating team. Ultimately, the process is complicated but navigable, and a major successful driving force is centered on teamwork and its collaborative and multitude of inclusive views.

Given the complexity of the issues associated with efforts to align team interests with details communicated in the various funding opportunities, contributions from individuals with diverse mindsets and experiences and from a variety of disciplines is critical. This type of cognitive diversity is necessary to build knowledge at disciplinary intersections which is beneficial for the development of innovative solutions to complex problems that will impact societal challenges. This conceptualization goes in contrast to the traditionally-adopted idea that societally-impactful funding opportunities are a “solo-investigator centered” approach usually conveyed as a top-down flow – an epitome of insight that comes from the intersection of a good idea at the right point in time. In this contribution, we highlight the approaches taken by an interdisciplinary team of educators/researchers as related to seeking and obtaining grant funding. Of particular emphasis is the process of upscaling or downscaling teams to support these activities as related to various funding opportunities. As part of this contribution, we focus on providing a schema that has been leveraged by this team wherein interdisciplinary voices, equitable conversations, and logistic models are integrated into the processes by which funding opportunities are generated and explored within a “Group Genius” approach. The approach is expected to be of value to new and experienced faculty and administrative personnel interested in developing the communication skills requisite for forming effective, equitable team funding structures.

Arce, P. E., & Arce-Trigatti, A., & Jorgensen, S., & Sanders, R. (2021, July), A Take on the Process of Proposal Development and the Scaling of Teams Towards Development of Competitive Proposals: A “Group Genius” Approach Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36623

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015