Thursday, February 24, 2011

This week in State and National News…

Activity in the INSGC Central Office is certainly at a higher level over the past week—every time I think I’ll have a few extra minutes to write some notes, there has been another incoming request, student meeting, or other decision to discuss with Angie or Dr. Dawn.  Right now, we’re trying to make sure that all of this year’s awards are being set up appropriately, as well as begin the process of reporting on these awards (yes, NASA has a deadline for progress reports for 2010-11 awards due on March 28; this is why we’re so glad that you’ve been responding to Angie’s requests for information).  At the same time, we have had an explosion in the number of submissions for the 2011-12 application cycle.  It looks like the review process for this year will be much more competitive than in past years—if only because more people are aware of INSGC and its programs.  This is a good thing; although I hate sending out “your proposal / application was interesting, but…” notes (I call them “ding letters”, and I don’t like sending them any more than I like receiving them), everyone who gets a “congratulations” letter should be especially proud.

However, there is a lot going on this week that also keeps us busy, and is directly related to the question I can hear coming already: “How many of those congratulations letters will you be sending out?”  Next week, several INSGC folks will be in Washington, providing information on Space Grant activities in Indiana to our Congressional representatives (9 House representatives, and two Senators).  We’ve been contacting their offices to set up times to provide material and answer questions.  As you might guess, this is not an easy time to be trying to schedule even a 10-minute period with a Representative.  There is a very intense range of debates going on in Congress regarding federal funding, and of course, there is still a concern regarding whether government offices will be functioning past March 4.  Challenging times, indeed, and presenting material to Congress is a type of administrative experience that seems far from my teaching responsibilities and research meetings.

And yet, this is the part of the job description of a Space Grant Director.  I caught myself in a moment of surprise the first time I listened to the morning news on the radio about the passing of the federal budget, and thinking, “Oh, that’s relevant to what I need to work on today.”  Congressional budgets affect my daily life?  When did that happen?  (Well, of course—Space Grant is a NASA program, and is part of those federal budget negotiations.).  Of course, I am an employee of a public university, and a large fraction of my income comes directly from NASA.  I do not feel it appropriate to tell my Representatives, or anyone else, whether they should be voting a particular way on a budget item.  We provide education and information, and then it is our job to figure out how to provide the best and most effective and most successful program possible for the budget we are provided.  Unlike other grants programs, though, I find myself involved in discussions with the Executive Committee regarding the overall Space Grant budget, and with NASA Centers on timing of award notices and funding levels for summer interns.  Next week, we’ll have more information from Washington and the National Council of Space Grant Directors meeting.  Until then…

Congratulations to STS-133 and the final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery this afternoon at 4:53 EST.   

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