“I didn’t really know anything about higher education. I definitely didn’t know anything about professors. I was just checking the boxes off of my plan, going through my courses, going through the motions.” - Chad Hargrave
During his sophomore year at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith (a community college at that time), his professor announced a part-time job opportunity within fish biology research. Seeking the extra income, Hargrave applied. While landing the job helped with his finances, he didn’t see the potential for what else could be gained.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I got was basically an undergraduate research assistantship. It was paid through grant dollars from a private individual. It provided a stipend for a faculty member to do research and hire a student assistant.”
Hargrave experienced first-hand how funding of university research has the potential to make a lasting impact on multiple levels. Research was a game-changer in his career trajectory.
“I learned more in that single job experience than the approximately 160 hours of courses I took. Ultimately, I learned what research was and what a faculty member does. And then all the knowledge, all of the technical knowledge, all the other types of knowledge that comes along with doing that job.”
Looking back on the experience, he describes the opportunity as “life changing.”
“I had no idea that you could be a scientist for a job and get paid to do this. It changed my life, because after doing that, I decided I was going to get my master’s and PhD and ultimately become a professor. Now, as an associate vice president, I firmly believe I would not be sitting here today talking about the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Sam Houston State if it wasn’t for that research money.”
SHSU Research Today
Through his role in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Hargrave and his team help faculty submit grants to external sponsors and promote all aspects of research and scholarship at SHSU.
While “scholarship” is commonly associated with financial aid to students, another meaning aligns with many of the virtues of research - seeking and discovering new information, bringing findings together from different sources to discover more, and sharing that information with others in the pursuit of new knowledge.
“We believe strongly that funded research and scholarship helps the university meet its broader mission of providing a quality education. Ultimately, our goal is not just to submit grants successfully for faculty, but to help faculty be more engaged in the funding process, which results in more proposals and hopefully more funding dollars coming into the university,” he said.
Since 2017, SHSU has seen significant growth in awarded grants. Hargrave attributes the progress to faculty being more active in grant writing.
“We have seen an increase in the number of proposals going out. We went from an average of about 130 over the course of five years to 170 proposals just last year alone. We’ve also seen an increase in the funding. There has been a greater success of proposals submitted and an increase in the size of the proposals. So, we’ve gotten some pretty large awards recently that have resulted in us doubling the total number of research dollars we were awarded last year compared to the previous five fiscal years combined.”
The Impact Of Giving
While the majority of funding comes from federal, state and private foundations, Hargrave sees the powerful potential of individual gifts to provide funding in support of research activity.
“Many times grants require matching dollars. They will say, ‘you can’t apply for those grants unless you have the matching funds.’ My office works to find those funds internally if we can. One way, is through private donors. If we have an endowment provided by a donor for the purpose of research, we can use those dollars to leverage federal funds. So, a donor can make an even greater impact with their gift.”
Like Hargrave’s experience as a student, that impact also has the power to change lives. Many students at SHSU are getting paid to work in research. In 2019, SHSU students earned a total of $1.2 million in research assistantships (15 percent of all research expenditures). Funding students for research activity is so important to Hargrave, he has made increasing the number of research dollars earmarked for student support a strategic priority of his office.
“Most of our students work jobs today. College is so expensive many have to work. And, typically these research assistantships pay pretty well,” Hargrave said. “If a student can do research and get paid for it versus waiting tables at a restaurant or something like that, you are giving them an opportunity to actually engage in education for a job. Imagine what happens to their educational experience then.”