University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright has set a goal of doubling research expenditures at MU over the next five years. CAFNR already has a head start on meeting that challenge – the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources recently hired Sheryl Koenig, grant writer lead.
She joins CAFNR Business Services from the Bond Life Sciences Center, where she worked for more than 12 years, also as a grant writer. Before that, she was a senior grants and contracts administrator for the Office of Sponsored Programs Administration at Mizzou.
“Sheryl’s hire is part of CAFNR’s effort to build a research support platform to assist our faculty with the preparation and submission of significant federal competitive grants,” says Marc Linit, CAFNR senior associate dean of research and extension.
Sheryl will assist with researchers submitting large, collaborative grants. Liz Bent, grants and contracts administrator, will continue to assist faculty members with grant submissions. Some divisions and departments also have grant assistance, and that is still key, Sheryl says.
She looks forward to working with CAFNR faculty members on grant proposals that meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Over $1 million total
- Faculty from more than three MU colleges, campuses or institutes
- Many large subcontracts, especially international
- Extensive institutional data sets (e.g. training grants)
- Major shared resources
- PI is a signature hire
- Faculty who are working on their first proposal, in collaboration with Liz
- Others that feed into AAU metrics will be considered
Ideally, Sheryl says, a principal investigator will let her know as far ahead of time as possible that they are considering submitting a large grant proposal – even if they aren’t 100 percent sure they will submit, they should still contact her.
Sheryl will then jump to action on her main focus of the project – the guidelines. She condenses the guidelines – some of which can be dozens of pages — to the “make or break” aspects for the researchers to keep in mind while building their proposal. She will help develop the timeline for getting the proposal ready, collect and format related documents such as biosketches of the team members, and help research questions the principal investigator might have about the specific funding agency or MU policy.
“That’s really my major role – reading and interpreting the guidelines, then reminding the others on the team,” she says. “I am a ‘polite nagger.’” The title “grant writer” is a bit misleading in this particular position, Sheryl says, as the principal investigator actually writes the proposal, while she guides the process.
Depending on the needs of the principal investigator for a particular grant proposal, she will offer more or less assistance. Oftentimes, she also will help with coordinating team members from different institutions, and assist with creating the proposal budget.
Sheryl says that’s part of what she enjoys about this field – working with so many different personalities.
“I like the variety,” she says. “I like working with people. I enjoy coordinating – looking at something and seeing what needs to be done.”
She also will attend meetings of the grant team and will read the draft narrative to make sure all of the requirements are addressed, and to make sure the explanations will make sense to an outside reviewer unfamiliar with the science.
“Publication writing and grant proposal writing are two totally different things,” she says. “It has to be a sales job. You have to get the reviewers excited. That’s the piece that’s difficult for some people.”
She will also take care of submitting the final proposal to the funding agency.
Sheryl got into the field when she was working at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs many years ago – the college had a TRIO program, which is federally funded, and they let her try her hand at writing the grant renewal application. They sent her to a conference to learn more about the process, and she authored the successful proposal.
After that, she went to work for Heartland Family Services, Omaha’s biggest non-profit agency. There she wrote many successful grant proposals – although, she says, non-profit grants are quite different than academic grants.
Working in academia and science in particular is a great fit for her, Sheryl says. She has her undergraduate degree in math and originally thought she would go into computer science. She also has a master’s of education in technology in education.
“I analyze everything!” she says. “I overanalyze, really. But it’s with interest, not with criticism.”
Sheryl works part-time, and will be in the office each day from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Contact Sheryl at 573-884-0282 or firstname.lastname@example.org.