I’m back after a vacation and there is a backlog of program news to report out!
In mid-March CSUPERB student and faculty Travel Grant and Presidents’ Commission Scholar proposals were due. The application rates for these three programs exceeded all expectations.* We received 88 travel grant proposals (~30% higher number of applications compared to any previous round). We received 67 Presidents’ Commission Scholar proposals from 18 campuses, doubling the typical application numbers and campus participation in the Howell Scholars program, for comparison. I think these numbers suggest we’re addressing an unmet, system-wide need with this new summer research program. The down-side to this news, of course, is that the success rates ( or, “win rates”) might be lower than hoped for** this spring because our budget won’t stretch that much further. Our goal is to partner with companies and national labs to expand the number of summer research opportunities in 2013.
That last point leads to the news that CSU Chancellor Reed approved the 2012-2015 CSUPERB Strategic Plan! A link to the plan (*pdf) is here; the executive summary in slide deck format (*pdf) is here.
This new strategic plan puts an increased emphasis on partnering with companies, research institutions and national labs (= the “life science industry”) to increase CSUPERB’s impact. Between 2009-2012 we worked on being “industry-responsive,” for instance, by developing new curriculum addressing workforce needs. But we realize there is a greater need for student research opportunities than our biotechnology faculty labs can accommodate (the applications received for the Presidents’ Commission Scholars program are the “tip of the iceberg,” in my opinion). Going forward we would like to build on our industry relationships to form long-lasting partnerships to improve student learning and open new career opportunities.
The new plan also puts an increased emphasis on entrepreneurial education. As part of the strategic planning process we surveyed the FCG, CSUPERB PIs and student award winners. This survey, along with survey responses after previous CSU Biotechnology Symposia, revealed a desire among faculty and students to understand life science entrepreneurship better. We aren’t aiming to start-up new companies, but we are aiming to build a more entrepreneurial culture across the CSU biotechnology community. In simple terms this might be reflected in meaningful exchanges and partnerships between chemistry and biology faculty and students and their engineering and business*** colleagues. To get started we are expanding the I2P® Early-Stage Biotechnology Commercialization Challenge system-wide this year in hopes that interested faculty and students can get involved and learn about biotechnology commercialization. While technology transfer and regional economic development are topics that higher education administrators and policy wonks think about, CSUPERB’s new emphasis on entrepreneurial education is a result of increased faculty and student “grass roots” interest.
CSUPERB has crafted an ambitious agenda on limited resources and in the face of decreasing support for higher education in California. It is clear the program’s leadership remains stubbornly optimistic, authentically student-centered and full of good will. It seems certain to me that we will continue to do good for California and its students despite our challenges.
*Another outcome associated with these remarkable application rates: we used almost every volunteer in our spring pool of potential reviewers, suggesting we need to expand our reviewer pool yet again in coming years!
**All CSUPERB grant programs have had 25-35% success rates the past three years. The The FCG recommends that success rates [ = (# awards made) / (# applications received)] remain similar across all programs. Their recommendation and an analysis of success rates each year drives our yearly budgeting process.
***…and their clinical, math and computer science colleagues as well!