Just halfway through fiscal year 2014, Youngstown State University has already received more money in grants than was obtained during all of fiscal year 2013.
According to the Board of Trustee’s Feb. 20 agenda, YSU has experienced recent success in the acquisition of grants.
“In the first half of FY 2014, a total of $5,186,670 in external grants was received. This amount exceeds the total of $3.55 million received by YSU for the entire fiscal year of 2013,” the agenda stated.
Fiscal year 2013 marked the second consecutive year that the amount of money received from grant awards declined. Edward Orona, director of the office of grants and sponsored programs, said he is not surprised that fiscal year 2014 has broken this two-year, downward trend and called this year’s numbers “encouraging.”
“Yes, so far in the past year we have exceeded last year. I expected so,” Orona said. “Grants are here because they are ways of giving us these external dollars to help us do productive things.”
Scott Martin, chair of the civil environmental & chemical engineering department and interim associate dean for research, oversees the office of grants and sponsored programs. He also positively commented on YSU’s ability to receive grants.
“[The acquisition of grants] gives us great opportunities,” Martin said. “It’s given YSU a little more name recognition around the state and around the nation.”
Martin indicated that an improved economy is one reason why grant awards have been more accessible this year.
“Grant income can be pretty volatile, and it tends to be affected by political and economic factors. The economy experienced a pretty rough time in 2009 and 2010, and tax revenue went way down. And federal agencies were not giving out as much money,” he said. “It took a few years for that problem to correct itself.”
The university’s faculty has also contributed to the university’s successful acquisition of grant awards. Orona commended YSU faculty members for successfully applying for grants.
“The story is not really about me. The faculty and staff are the ones doing the work; I’m just a facilitator,” Orona said. “We can be competitive. I’m just here trying to facilitate and coordinate the process, giving as much administrative help as I can.”
Martin also positively commented on YSU faculty members.
“Faculty and staff have found new opportunities, finding money for research and internship opportunities,” Martin said. “That’s been a big help for the numbers this year.”
From 2008 to 2013, the majority of YSU’s external funding — 55.75 percent or $4,130,328 — was given to the college of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Martin said this grant money has funded 3-D printers and scanning electron microscopes, deeming these instruments “really cool toys.”
“YSU is trying to make a push to become more of a research-oriented university and that’s happening pretty significantly in the STEM college,” he said.
Orona believes this kind of research-oriented university can have a positive impact on students.
“There is a certain set of things you do in higher ed. to sort of grow as an individual, to grow as a scientist and to grow as a researcher,” he said. “The whole point is that you want to retain your options and I think the university is perfect for that in the sense that you get to see what your options are.
“Hopefully, the research part helps a lot. It may teach you about problem based learning — how to adapt certain principles. But, it makes you explore options and it tests certain ideas. In that sense, it’s good for you because you can then decide on your career path.”