DC Reflections

During a recent business conference that concerned the impending Sequestration and its impact on university funding, my hope for a decent future found purchase in the basic human quality of resilience or even rightly applied pugnaciousness.  The meeting – American Association for State Colleges and Universities Grant Resource Center Funding Forecast – draws university grants professionals and faculty to an annual heads together on how to win funding to educate the nation’s youth. This year in particular could be termed “Reading the Tea Leaves.” As the Legislative Branch stampedes toward the fiscal cliff chased by a frantic Executive Branch, the rest of us are left to wonder whether we’ll have a job, schools can operate, students continue on in higher education, or the transportation and financial infrastructure upon which our nation has thrived will remain in tact. Many threatening scenarios are spiraling around communication networks AD NAUSEUM, so much so I predict record viewing of the Academy Awards for sheer relief from the worry. At least the year’s films are somewhat predictable! Funding for education will surely take a hit right when we are trying to graduate more students from college in technical fields, put Veterans to work, make sure preschool kids get a decent start, keep us safe from cyber threats, and figure out how to mitigate climate change.

My hope stems from meeting or reconnecting with friends and colleagues from across our county who are devoted to their institutions and communities. There is no loss of hope among us; in fact we are made more savvy by contemplating the loss of funding and termination of funding sources we’ve depended upon. There are many ways to peel a banana. So if a bunch of grants professionals respond so, why not the rest of the country? We are by long tradition the kind of people who “dig in” when times are tough. Maybe we can do a lot with little on a local basis – with the exception of  the federal programs that work at scales that address widespread problems beyond the community’s abilities.

Its clear to me that communities and institutions will be required to collaborate and coordinate projects in order to win funding.  That is not a bad thing. The fact that there is less money will have impacts that we should work to prevent: early preschool funding; Pell grants; community grants that target very low income and high health disparity neighborhoods; innovation grants that support entrepreneurs, creators, scientists and students to try novel ideas for solving common problems. This is what agencies are trying to puzzle through right now, to use what funding they will have to make as big an impact in the right direction as possible.

All of us can make a call, write, blog, show up or support advocacy groups for education, health and welfare, and new policies and technologies for a sustaining environment.  The colleagues I had the privilege of sharing ideas among inspire me. From every region of our country there are caring, intelligent individuals working to make the best out of the mud pie this Congress continues to deliver.

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