Friday, November 9, 2012

Moving towards Crunch Time

This is the time of the semester where students and faculty alike are frequently seen walking around college campuses with expressions ranging from mild panic to steely-eyed determination (and maybe even some nervous tics).  Projects need to be assigned and completed; exams are to be written, and taken, and graded.  There is so much to be done, and not much time before Thanksgiving to do it… and of course, barely any time passes after Thanksgiving before it’s final exam time. 

With those thoughts in mind, and a few facial expressions of my own, I am extremely glad and pleased for the two teleconferences we’ve had this week with our Affiliate Directors and Advisory Board members.  (Incidentally, I am pleased to welcome Kelly Orr, and Angela Diaz, to the INSGC Advisory Board.  Kelly works at Catepillar; Angela is at Purdue’s Global Policy Research Institute.  Some of you may recognize Angela’s name from her time at NASA Headquarters, including a stint in the Office of Education.  She has an intimate knowledge of, and longstanding history with, Space Grant.)  Even with the increasing intensity of the semester, we had nearly all of our 18 Academic Affiliates deeply engaged in the Friday teleconference.  This is in addition to the Wednesday conference, focused on the 10 Outreach Affiliates.  (Though a couple of Outreach folks missed Wednesday due to conflicts, they did call in on Friday.)   In itself, this is fairly remarkable.  Over 80% of our affiliates were dialed in to participate in the work of the Consortium, and made sure that Angie, Dawn and I were busy with notepads from all the great comments brought to the discussion.  I am also highly encouraged by the collaborative and generative style of the discussions as we did something that, like laws and sausage, usually should not really be seen up close.  We were organizing strategies for our INSGC proposal submissions.

Near the end of October, NASA announced a Cooperative Agreement Notice (“CAN”) for Space Grant Consortia to propose projects in two areas:  Undergraduate STEM Education, and Effective K-12 STEM Teacher Education.   Each Consortium is allowed to submit at most two proposals, and the proposals must be kept strictly separate.  This is not why we had two teleconferences—we moved to that model several years ago, when we realized that too large a group, with too disparate a set of interests and challenges, was not a recipe for an effective meeting.  But it just so happens that the two project areas linked well to both segments of our Affiliate interests—INSGC mission emphases on Engage, and Educate, based on Inspiration, and working towards Employment (as STEM workforce, or STEM educators).  Both teleconference sessions worked well, bringing together people who had very valuable suggestions and insights based on their varied experience.  I never heard “my way or the highway” or “not invented here” statements; not only was there clear synergy between the comments, but also a recognition that the different affiliates have a diversity of capability and focus that is one of our strengths. 

It was especially helpful when it was suggested that we incorporate…  hold on.  I may be tired, but I’m not that foolish.  We’re not going to discuss the proposal details in the blog.  But I will brag on the quality of the Affiliate Directors and the strong involvement that is supporting these proposals.  Yes, it’s crunch time, with two large proposals due in mid-December.  (Wow.  Could it be true that I actually have three additional grant proposals due before the Space Grant CAN deadline? )  Well, maybe just a little bit of sleep might be a good thing…