"Grassroots Grantsmanship" to Grow External Funding


JSU is at a crossroads. To keep pace with other universities, JSU must increase the number of grants and contracts it has submitted and funded. 

As the newly hired senior director for sponsored programs, Dr. Michael Wetherholt is confident that he can help the university do just that.   

“I was excited to come to JSU because I knew I could assist the institution,” he said. “When I began at my previous institution – Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga. – nine years ago, that university was where JSU is now, and I helped move that university toward increased numbers of successful grant applications and contracts.”

Under his leadership, CSU was awarded a $3,000,000, five-year grant award from the National Science Foundation to assist undergraduate minority students seeking STEM fields, a $3,000,000, five-year grant award from the US Department of Education to support students that require academic support and a $300,000 three-year grant award from the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, to increase the safety on campus to reduce or eliminate sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. The US Department of Justice grant award was just renewed for another three years. 

Wetherholt’s responsibilities at JSU will focus on reviewing policy and ensuring it is appropriate when it comes to safeguarding the institution, faculty and the professional staff “while also being robust enough to spur increased grant proposal and contracts activity,” he said. 

He will also act on JSU’s behalf when it comes to working with grant award and contract sponsors, including the federal government.  

With more than 20 years of experience as a successful grant proposal writer, Wetherholt will assist faculty and staff in pre-award areas such as developing ideas, searching for appropriate funding opportunities, interpreting grant program guidelines and preparing grant proposal narratives. He will also help with developing budgets and justifications, completing forms and submitting grant proposals to potential sponsors. 

Wetherholt’s plan for JSU is what he calls “grassroots grantsmanship,” in which he will directly assist faculty and staff in whatever areas deemed necessary to personally help them in the pursuit of external funding. 

“For an example, JSU is predominately teaching university and, as such, faculty have heavy teaching loads,” he explained. “Well, in grassroots grantsmanship, you relieve as much of the burden of pursuing grants and contracts from the faculty. JSU is my fourth university in which I have worked and applied ‘grassroots grantsmanship’ and have seen it work superlatively in all cases.”

Wetherholt wanted to make it clear that, prior to his arrival, that the JSU Office of Sponsored Programs was “already assisting faculty and professional staff at a very high level.” 

There were already numerous areas of strength in place, including a faculty and staff with excellent potential to successfully pursue grants and contracts.

“Currently, I am assisting faculty in pursuing three federal grant programs,” he said, “and I was proactively contacted by the faculty members almost as soon as I arrived at JSU on August 1.”

 Wetherholt said department heads and deans, as well as the rest of JSU’s leadership, have been highly supportive of efforts to pursue external funding. The personnel within the Office of Sponsored Programs put faculty and professional staff first and have also been eager to assist in the pursuit of external awards.  

However, Wetherholt has identified a few areas that need to be addressed.

“I think a few policies need revision to support faculty and professional staff to pursue grants awards and contracts,” he said. “Also, the Office Sponsored Programs didn’t use an electronic funding database to easily search for appropriate grants funding opportunities but now we use such a service and faculty and professional staff can create their own search profiles and let the system search for them.” 

One of the cornerstones of Wetherholt’s grassroots approach to grant writing, and eventual grant rewards, is having JSU faculty and staff involved in the process. In fact, external grant awards and contract funding often provides faculty with resources to conduct research without a drain on university resources.

“Maybe more importantly is that most grant awards and contracts allow for the inclusion of undergraduates and graduate students on such projects, providing such individuals with research experience working under faculty supervision and also receiving student financial support,” he said. 

The excellent staff of the Office of Sponsored Programs is ready to assist faculty and professional staff in the pursuit of external funding. In addition, the grants accountant under JSU Finance and Administration provides “superlative service in the post-award financial management of grants and contracts budgets,” Wetherholt said. “So JSU has the critical pieces in place for faculty and professional staff to succeed in the grant awards and contracts arena.” 

To get started, visit the Sponsored Programs website or call 256-782-5108.