The trek to Mentor-Connect

The faculty team from American Samoa Community College chat with Mentor Fellow Deidre Sullivan (right). (Photo: Tynisha Ferguson)

NEW ORLEANS — The team from American Samoa Community College traveled the furthest for the Mentor-Connect’s Winter 2020 Technical Assistance and Grant Writing Workshop.

Other teams in the 2020 mentee cohort hailed from small, rural community colleges in North Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas and larger, urban campuses in California, Illinois and New York.

“We are making significant progress in our quest to broaden impact,” said Elaine Craft, Mentor-Connect principal investigator, as she introduced the 22 college teams from 17 states and Samoa, which is a U.S. territory.

Since 2012, Mentor-Connect has helped rural and urban two-year colleges — with large populations of students that have been historically underrepresented in STEM careers — build institutional capacity and faculty leadership skills through the process of preparing proposals to the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.

Improving the odds

Of the 143 college teams that participated in Mentor-Connect during its first seven years, 80 percent submitted ATE grant proposals. Eighteen proposals submitted by the 2019 mentee cohort in October 2019 are still pending with NSF.

Of the 122 ATE proposals submitted during Mentor-Connect’s first six years, 115 were submitted in the Small Grants for Institutions New to ATE funding track. Seventy-one of those proposals were funded, for a funding rate of 73 percent. None of the proposals submitted in other ATE program tracks have been funded.

Related article: Paying it forward

The three-day winter workshop provides a foundation of support from which the faculty-led college teams will develop competitive proposals to the ATE program over the next nine months.

“Yes, we’ve found that, like birthing a baby, it takes about nine months to get it right,” Craft said.

Providing resources

In addition to periodic conference calls with mentors, Mentor-Connect assists mentees’ proposal-writing efforts with webinars on project budgeting and ATE-specific expectations, a digital archive of technical resources, and a summer workshop for more face-to-face discussions with mentors and exposure to the expertise of other faculty involved in the ATE program.

Mentor-Connect is an ATE-funded project of the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence at Florence-Darlington Technical College in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges.

The application for Mentor-Connect’s 2021 cohort will be available at http://www.mentor-connect.org in July. STEM faculty who are from colleges that have not had an ATE grant in the past seven years are eligible for Mentor-Connect.

About the Author

Madeline Patton
is an education writer based in Ohio.