Entrepreneurial Skills in Academia: A Curriculum for Teaching Proposal Writing to Female Graduate Students

By Selber, Katherine; Selber, William B. et al. | Advancing Women in Leadership, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Entrepreneurial Skills in Academia: A Curriculum for Teaching Proposal Writing to Female Graduate Students


Selber, Katherine, Selber, William B., Freeman, Dexter, Advancing Women in Leadership


Abstract

This article addresses the development of entrepreneurial skills in academic and human service settings by reporting on a curriculum for teaching proposal writing for funded research and program development grants. The article includes a review of current challenges in preparing primarily female graduate students with skills needed for grant seeking in their careers in human services. A description of the proposal writing curriculum, teaching methodologies used, and outcomes obtained during the past six offerings of the course are described. In addition, preliminary evaluation data from a survey of a nonrandom sample of participants in the course (N=30) about their perceptions of the course and its utility are included. Lessons learned and implications for using the curriculum with other populations, such as female faculty and agency-based human service professionals, are also explored.

A consensus in the literature reflects the continuing turbulent nature of the external environment of universities, human service organizations, and other public and civic organizations (Hopkins & Hyde, 2002; Martin, 2000; Patti, 2000). Increasingly, private, non-profit, and public sector organizations operate in a competitive funding environment with limited resources to meet a growing demand for services and enhanced calls for accountability (Austin, 2002; Brooks, 2004; Marx, 2000). For example, federal spending cuts to social services have resulted in non-profit organizations losing almost $46 billion in federal revenue between 1980 and 1996, pushing human service managers to rely on multiple streams of funding to meet the gap left between traditional federal sources of funding and rising demand for services (Brooks, 2004; Eikenberry & Kluver, 2004). In addition, rapid technological changes, the post September 11, 2001 reprioritization of the country's needs, and mounting state government deficits have all contributed to a growing urgency to develop and maintain a diverse base of funding for organizations (Farruggia, 2004; Hopkins & Hyde, 2002; Martin, 2000; Menefee & Thompson, 1994; Selber & Streeter, 2000). Indeed, the pressure on public sector managers for innovative and entrepreneurial responses to such financial challenges has never been greater (Eikenberry & Kluver, 2004; Salamon, 1997; Tropman, 1989). This is especially true in academic settings where state governments have increased fiscal scrutiny of university budgets, pushing the academy to rely more heavily on budget monies drawn down by faculty grants and contracts from outside funders (Boyer & Cockriel, 1999).

In this highly competitive marketplace for organizations, the challenge to enhance entrepreneurial skills, such as grant seeking, has increased in importance for top administrators. But how best to train these employees and professionals has been an ongoing debate in educational circles (Ezell, Chernesky, & Healy, 2004; Faherty, 1987; Gummer, 1997; Martin, Pine, & Healy, 1999; McNutt, 1995; Patti, 2000; Rimer, 1987; Wolk, 1994). Discussions over the past two decades regarding training in proposal writing, especially within graduate education in human services, have called into question even the necessity for, as well as the structure of such training. Other curriculum issues, such as the balance between technical and quantitative skills as opposed to theoretical and value-driven learning, have also been debated (Edwards, 1987; Hopkins & Hyde, 2002; Martin, et al., 1999; Menefee, 1998; Menefee & Thompson, 1994; Rimer, 1987; Wolk, 1994).

This article seeks to address one aspect of this debate by reporting on a training curriculum for teaching proposal writing skills to graduate students in human services and its adaptation for faculty and other health and human service professionals. The article includes a review of current challenges in training for proposal writing, a description of the curriculum, teaching methodologies used, and preliminary evaluation data about participants' perceptions of the course and its utility. …

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