Many of our students have been writing personal statements for grad school, applications for Fulbright fellowships and other international opportunities, and cover letters to send with their resumes. But those tasks are not something that they will conclude when they finish their education. They will probably continue to revise narratives and letters for applications throughout their careers. Those who go into academia, for example, will have to apply for jobs, tenure, and grants. For example, right now, the department is working on a significant grant application to submit to the National Endowment for the Humanities towards the end of this semester.
I’m heading up writing the application, everyone is involved in shaping the idea and giving feedback, and we are all excited about the project (something we began discussing last summer) along with the opportunities that the grant will bring to the department as well as students and faculty across the Humanities at UA, not to mention people well outside the university. Later this week, I will be representing the department in a meeting with a Grants Officer at the NEH offices in Washington, DC (thanks to some funding assistance from UA’s Office of Sponsored Programs), to discuss our plans for this project and to receive early feedback that will help us make the application narrative even stronger. And, like writing a personal statement as part of a grad school application, the process of writing a grant application involves many revisions, including further feedback, later in the semester, from NEH and other scholars whose support and comments we will seek.
Of course, this grant, like almost any great opportunity, requires a lot of work in preparation for a competitive selection process. But we’re confident that we will have a competitive application, although it is impossible to know how the final decision will go. And, if we do not receive the grant, we plan to revise the proposal and continue to apply, with the NEH or some other national granting agency, because we think it’s a great idea. Whether applying for grants, jobs, or graduate school, incorporating any constructive criticism received and continuing to apply can produce significant dividends.
To paraphrase Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, critical feedback isn’t always what you want, but sometimes it’s what you need.