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Dec. 6, 2012 Volume 34, No. 15

New director in Office of Research wants to fine-tune grant writing process

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LEADERSHIP Heather Brown, director in the Office of Research, says the best grant writers are curious, creative and analytical. In many cases they play the role of educated lay reader and critic, Brown said. Rob Hill photo


Winning grants calls for teamwork, leader says

Although she holds the title of director of grant writing and publications, Heather Brown sees herself more as an educator than a grant writer. 

“I think the strongest skills I bring are in teaching and working with adults,” said Brown, who joined the Office of Research 

Aug. 1. To that end, she wants the 16 members of MU’s Grant Writer Network to both learn about and train others in the best methods for writing grants and to be open to alternative, adult-friendly methods for teaching others. 

Grant writers work in the research office and in various campus schools and colleges. Since its inception in 1998, the network has helped Mizzou faculty secure more than $300 million in awards.

“The grant writers are incredibly talented; I can’t emphasize that enough,” Brown said. “With the demands on faculty, they can make a difference” in getting proposals written for funding university innovation and research. 

Prior to joining MU, Brown served as assistant dean of faculty for grants and scholarships at Lake Forest College, north of Chicago. 

“It was a one-person shop, and I was responsible for faculty and student development, support in pursuing external opportunities, program planning and grant writing,” she said. 

What does it take to get grant applications to the top of the pile? The best grant writers are at once curious, creative and analytical,” Brown said. “They ask good questions. Sometimes they are experts in the field when working with faculty members, sometimes they are not.” 

In many cases, grant writers play the role of educated lay reader and critic to provide a different perspective on research. “This is important because researchers can get caught up in their own areas and not see the broader picture,” Brown said. “Having a grant writer who is smart and creative, and who understands the process of seeking and getting funding, can coalesce that process in a heartbeat.”

Equally important in winning grants is teamwork. 

“Coming from a liberal arts background, I know firsthand that if you don’t work together, you are not getting anywhere,” Brown said. 

— Sue Richardson