Teaching Grant Writing

This fall, I’ll be teaching ENG 413/513 Grant Writing at Miami University. I’ve been reading up on current approaches to grant writing, and I’ve found that the course is taught across multiple disciplines. A quick search for “grant writing” on ProQuest yielded advice-driven articles on grant-writing in fields such as microbiology, neuroscience, nursing, social services, urban planning, and any other discipline that requires cash to get its work/research done (which pretty much includes every discipline!).

The students enrolled in the course represent many majors at my university, so I immediately began brainstorming how I could create an assignment or classroom environment that encouraged them to find and read articles/advice on grant writing in their particular fields. My idea is to generate two major projects: 1) a self-directed project involving grant searching and proposal writing for a grant that directly relates to their major or future profession, and 2) a collaborative project involving grant writing for a local organization.

This second, larger project will be collaborative and community-based. I want to discover: How can local organizations, departments, or interest groups benefit from grant research and proposal writing conducted by my students? How will my students benefit from real-world experience writing proposals for organizations in need of funding for specific programs and projects?

I read a recent article by Courtney Stevens in the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement about a service learning approach to grant writing courses, where students work directly with organizations to find out their immediate needs, engage in their programs through volunteer service, collaborate with each other and the organization to research appropriate grant options, and then write a proposal for a potential grant.


I immediately liked how Stevens’ course model embedded students in the organizational environment and situated organizational leaders as beacons of knowledge regarding the structure, needs, limitations, and possibilities for potential grants and the proposals that win them. I also like how this approach places a lot of agency in the hands of students, who are invited to research potential grants and work collaboratively with the organization to brainstorm the most effective rhetorical approaches to the proposals.

My goal is to identify 2-3 organizations that student teams will work with to write proposals for grants that students help identify. Stevens had an excellent idea of putting an RFP out into the community to solicit potential organizations. I’m very much interested in taking that approach in a future semester, but for this coming year, I am making arrangements myself to help speed-up the process.

One such collaboration was sparked at this week’s CWPA conference in Normal, Illinois. As luck would have it, I sat down to dinner at the conference next to a writing instructor at a two-year college located very closely to my new institution. We chatted about the courses we would teach in the fall, and when I shared that I was taking a service learning approach to my grant writing course, she immediately asked if my students would be interested in working with her department. The faculty there recently developed online modules to accompany their first-year composition courses, but their department lacks the computer lab space for students to actually engage with that content. In addition, because students at this two-year college often don’t have home computers or laptops, it’s especially important that additional computer space get created. She volunteered to drive up to my university and meet with my students to discuss their needs and her ideas for how to solve them.

I’ll continue to write updates on this (and the other) projects taking place in my grant writing course throughout the fall semester. Until then, what approaches have worked in your grant writing courses? How have you established collaborations with community partners? Do you have some grant writing that could be benefited through my students’ efforts?


About taylo206

I am an Assistant Professor of Composition, Rhetoric and Professional Writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
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