The possibilities for students at Xavier University of Louisiana are endless, thanks to competitive grants from federal, state, and private agencies. So far in 2015, the university has secured 54 grants worth $21 million, university administrators say.The majority of the funding goes to academic programs in the sciences, said Dr. Marguerite Giguette, Xavier’s associate vice president for academic affairs. Additionally, programs in the humanities, such as the Ronald E. McNair and the Department of Mass Communication, benefits from grant funding, Giguette added. Grants funded programs help students to think critically about the world around them, and help prepare them for graduate schools, internships, and jobs, Giguette said. “Xavier’s strong academic programs make the campus come alive,” she said.

The Money Makers
Researching and securing grants is where the Office Of Research and Sponsored programs comes in, said Dr. Deborah M. Marshall, the associate vice president.In 2015, the university received funding from federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and United States Department of Defense, Marshall said. The university competes against the Louisiana’s flagship university, Louisiana State University, and national Ivy Leagues like Stanford University and Pennsylvania State University for the federal grants.The NIH awarded $19.6 million for the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program. Marshall said the BUILD initiative helps students boost their academic foundation by giving them the tools to prepare for graduate school.

The program’s goals also include helping students become leaders and develop self-confidence.“Whether you’re a leader or not is not dependent on what your profession is, how much money you make, or who you know,” Marshall said. “Leadership is a function of your own self-confidence and your concern for others.” These are qualities graduate programs and employers find desirable, she added.Some programs put its grant funding toward student scholarships to reduce the burden of student loan debt, and provide students the freedom to fully immerse themselves in their coursework, instead of having to take part-time jobs.“They have the opportunity to completely focus on their studies, without financial stress, while also gaining valuable research experience,” said Terry Lawrence, Xavier’s program coordinator for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

In September 2015, NASA awarded Xavier a $5 million, five-year grant to advance the performance and safety of lithium batteries and designated the university as a “Solid Higher Energy Lithium Battery Institution, Lawrence said. Xavier is now part of a collaborative effort with leading scientists with the U.S. Army Research Lab, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Glenn Research Center, Georgia Institute of Technology and Auburn University.Also, the grant supports the creation of a center where a pool of faculty from the engineering, physics, and chemistry departments can conduct research, Lawrence added.“Our competitive edge comes from our curriculum, our strong reputation, and the quality of our students and faculty,” Lawrence said.

Grants benefit the humanities
Aside from the sciences, other programs such as graduate placement and mass communication received grants in 2015.The Office of Graduate Placement and University Summer programs received $231,000, according to director Tracie Thomas. For example, the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program supports students who wish to earn a Ph.D., including first-generation college members of families. “It’s to give exposure to students of all majors who will research at the doctorate level,” Thomas said.The Louisiana Board of Regents awarded the Department of Mass Communication almost $160,000 for an Undergraduate Enhancement Grant in the Social Sciences for equipment upgrades. The department furnished an iMac teaching lab this fall, and grant funds will update Xavier’s television studio and develop multimedia suites, said department head Dr. Tia Smith. The grant allows for continued growth into new media niches that will provide students with diverse opportunities when they graduate.“We want our students to be a one-stop brand,” Smith said. “We are working towards the future for media entrepreneurship…and research skills.”

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