Investing in the future: Grants for graduate students
Investing in the future: Graduate Student Grants
The old saying “what goes around comes around” would be an appropriate slogan for SARE’s Graduate Student Grant program, for several reasons.
For example, the program exemplifies how good ideas mo
ve around from one SARE region to the others. Graduate Student Grants were first implemented in other parts of the country, and by the time the Northeast Administrative Council decided to fund them in 2009, there was already strong evidence that such a program could be effective. Graduate students were submitting high quality proposals and completing research projects that added to our scientific understanding of sustainable agriculture. The regional structure of SARE, with its administrative flexibility, allowed the idea of Graduate Student Grants to be tested in one location before full adoption elsewhere.
The Northeast was the last of the four regions to adopt the graduate student program, and was able to design it using the lessons learned in other parts of the country. One of those lessons was that grad students relocate after finishing their degrees, so we work hard to keep in touch with them for a couple of years afterwards so we can find out about the downstream benefits of their projects. Another lesson was that young people use different communication tools than us old folks, so our Graduate Student Grant process was designed to be entirely on line, and a Facebook page was set up to reach potential applicants and others interested in the program.
Another example of things that go around are the students themselves. After completing their studies and their SARE projects, many graduate students go on to positions where they contribute to the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices and to new knowledge about sustainable agriculture issues. The experience gained in their graduate research helps them in this work, and their understanding of the SARE program leads some of them apply for SARE Research and Education Grants or Partnerships Grants as their careers evolve. In short, the Graduate Student Grant program is helping to build an even stronger community of sustainable agriculture researchers and educators, and along the way it strengthens the pool of applicants for SARE grant programs.
Over the first few years of the program, Northeast SARE has received a strong pool of applications. In fact, we have received many more high quality proposals than we can afford to fund, which is a sign of a strong grants program. In 2011, we funded 17 out of 44 proposals; and in 2012 we funded 20 out of 54 proposals. The projects that the Administrative Council has approved so far represent a diverse set of approaches to strengthening the economic, environmental, and social health of our food system. The project descriptions in this newsletter will give you a sense of that, as a snapshot of what our future sustainable agriculture scientists and service providers are up to.
For a complete list of graduate student grant titles and project summaries, go to the Northeast SARE website and select “get a grant,” then “sample grants.”