The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the National Science Foundation collaborated to present a day of workshops and offer firsthand information to maximize funding from NSF. Attendees to the event represented areas such as human sciences, biology, food science, dietetics and theatre.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the National Science Foundation collaborated to present a day of workshops and offer firsthand information to maximize funding from NSF. Attendees to the event represented areas such as human sciences, biology, food science, dietetics and theatre.

This is an opportunity to really ask questions,” said Mansour Mortazavi, professor in the Chemistry and Physics department at UAPB. “I’ve done proposals for some time, but it wasn’t until I attended a workshop like this one that I learned [how] to follow the guidelines.”

The first presenter, Richard Alo, Program Director for the Division of Undergraduate Studies at NSF, gave a comprehensive presentation covering everything from the organizational structure of NSF to funding sources and emphasis areas. He also discussed specific STEM areas and how NSF can help HBCUs transform undergrad education in STEM.

He placed emphasis on measurable results that reflect transformative effects in areas such as learning materials, faculty expertise, instructional strategies, student learning, achievement and research. While he placed particular interest on STEM areas, Alo’s inclusive vision wasn’t limited to that alone. “We need to develop teams that include an economist, scientist and someone from the arts,” Alo said.

He also emphasized experiential learning for freshman and sophomores to boost retention by “getting their hands on something.”

Alo has been working with minority serving institutions and campuses that have 100% remediation but boast retention rates above 70%. Other workshops included sessions about: proposal preparation for Cyberinfrastructure programs; Education, Cross-Disciplinary, and Special Interest Programs; Computer Science; and International Programs.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…”

With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), they are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

NSF’s task of identifying and funding work at the frontiers of science and engineering. NSF operates from the “bottom up,” keeping close track of research around the United States and the world, maintaining constant contact with the research community to identify ever-moving horizons of inquiry, monitoring which areas are most likely to result in spectacular progress and choosing the most promising people to conduct the research.