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Gaining the Competitive Edge in Proposal Submission to the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Program (NSF-ATE): Mentor-Connect

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Two-year College Potpourri

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Elaine L. Craft Florence-Darlington Technical College

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Elaine L. Craft (Florence-Darlington Technical College, Florence, SC) holds a baccalaureate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Mississippi and a MBA from the University of South Carolina with additional graduate studies in mathematics. Her experience includes working as an engineer in industry as well as teaching and administration at community college and state levels. Since 1994, she has served as Executive Director of the South Carolina Advanced Technological (SC ATE) Center of Excellence, leading initiatives and grant-funded projects to develop educational leadership and increase the quantity, quality and diversity of highly skilled technicians to support the American economy. Craft currently serves as Principal Investigator (PI), Mentor-Connect: Leadership Development and Outreach for ATE; PI, South Carolina National Resource Center for Expanding Excellence in Technician Education (SCATE); Co-PI, ATE Regional Center for Aviation and Automotive Technology Education Using Virtual E-Schools (CA2VES); and Co-PI, Centers Collaborative for Technical Assistance (CCTA). The SC ATE Center is widely known for developing and broadly sharing successful educational models and practices in technician education focused on faculty development; problem-based learning curricula; mentoring; industry partnerships; student recruitment and success; research and evaluation; mentoring other technician educators nationally to broaden the impact of the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Program; and, developing STEM faculty leaders.

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Karen Wosczyna-Birch CT College of Technology

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Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch is the Executive Director and Principal Investigator of the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, an National Science Foundation Center of Excellence. She is the state director for the College of Technology, a seamless pathway in technology and engineering from all 12 public community colleges to 8 public and private universities. Dr. Wosczyna-Birch has expertise with both the recruitment and persistence of under represented populations, especially women, to pursue careers in engineering and technological disciplines. She has presented at numerous conferences throughout the United States and was an invited speaker at the international Gender Summit in Belgium in 2016.

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Charlotte B. Forrest

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Charlotte B. Forrest currently serves as Project Manager and Co-Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Advanced Technological Education (ATE) funded program-Mentor-Connect: Leadership Development and Outreach for ATE project DUE#1204463 and DUE#1501183 since April 2013. She works in Florence, SC at Florence-Darlington Technical College in the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education (SC ATE) National Center of Excellence. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Louisville and earned her Master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education from Morehead State University. A native of Louisville, KY, she has an array of experience in student affairs, STEM/ diversity initiatives and a passion for initiatives that encourage diversity and the representation of those underserved or underrepresented in sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics fields, community colleges and higher education, in general. She is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

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Securing external funding to improve or expand engineering technology and related programs is increasingly essential as state funding for two-year technical and community colleges plummets nationwide. Grants often provide the impetus and means for innovation that would not otherwise be possible. The National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) program has a unique focus on two-year colleges and technician education. However, the funding rate for the program recently declined to 22% and the proposal submission process is complex. NSF also has an agency-wide mission to encourage diverse populations to participate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Mentor-Connect: Leadership Development and Outreach for ATE Initiative project, NSF DUE #1204463 and #1501183 awarded to Florence-Darlington Technical College, Florence, South Carolina offers an efficient way for prospective principal investigators to learn effective proposal preparation strategies specific to this funding program and to receive cost-free assistance that helps them gain the competitive edge. Mentor-Connect also addresses NSF’s diversity goals.

As a leadership development and outreach project for NSF-ATE, the project uses a three-pronged approach to support potential grantees. It offers mentoring, technical assistance, and digital resources. The project’s immediate goals are to help STEM faculty prepare competitive grant proposals and to improve their colleges’ institutional capacity for obtaining grants. Its long-term goal is to develop a new generation of STEM faculty leaders.

Early evidence indicates that this project is increasing the geographic diversity of colleges submitting proposals to the NSF-ATE program. The 99 colleges in the first 5 project cohorts are from 31 different states. Each participating college is located in a geographic area where there has been either no previous NSF-ATE grant awards or none in the past 10 years. There is also evidence of improvements in the quality of NSF-ATE proposals as a result of this project. More than 89% of the 79 colleges in the first 4 cohorts of participating colleges submitted NSF-ATE grant proposals; 36 of them or 69% have been awarded grants of approximately $200,000 each. The average acceptance rate for colleges that have applied to participate in the project is 65%. This paper documents the project’s unique combination of strategies and the competitive edge that those strategies provide for prospective NSF ATE grantees.

Craft, E. L., & Wosczyna-Birch, K., & Forrest, C. B. (2017, June), Gaining the Competitive Edge in Proposal Submission to the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Program (NSF-ATE): Mentor-Connect Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28396

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