The Courage to Try Something New

September 26, 2013 — Jean Karutis

As the calendar page is flipped to September, hundreds of new students enter the halls of FM ready to try something new.  While outwardly this seems fun and something that students should look forward to, there is also one central emotion involved in new activity: fear.  Risk of failure is a fundamental component of the fear we feel when we embark upon a new venture.  We know the reward of trying something new is innovation and growth; however, those first steps in a new direction bring us pause.

As the Director of Grants, I can relate to the trepidation of putting oneself out on a limb and proposing something unfamiliar and different. For the student, growth and innovation is personal and can result in a trajectory to a college degree and the promise of gainful employment in the future.  For the grant writer, growth and innovation is sought to benefit the institution so it is better positioned to meet the needs of area residents and employers.  In both cases, a culture of innovation can result in a paradigm shift from the status quo, solving a “problem,” to a process that seeks a unique utility and redefines the problem as an “opportunity.” 

Innovative thinking in grant seeking and writing has resulted in numerous opportunities for the College and its students.  Federal grant programs funded through the U.S. Department of Education for low-income students who are the first in their families to attend college assists them with on-time degree completion, entry into the workforce, or transfer to four-year institutions.  National Science Foundation grants assist FM in providing new and innovative pathways for high school students into degrees and jobs in high demand fields of nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing.  Equipment purchased through the SUNY High Needs Program allows FM to respond to the need of local technology companies for well trained workers in Electrical Technology, Computer Networking, and the emerging Sustainable Energy (HVAC) fields assisting community growth into the 21st century and beyond.  Funding opportunities through Arts and Humanities organizations, both public and private, assist FM in fulfilling its mission as the cultural hub of our community and bring excellent visual and performance art to area residents for free or at low cost.  Grants for capital improvements across campus have led to new student gathering spaces, upgrades of classroom technology, and expanded residential housing which attracts students from other areas of the state and the world to our community. 

Central in each of these grant funded opportunities was a willingness to redefine a “problem” as an “opportunity” for growth and innovation.  While the endeavors noted above were successful, they were preceded by other proposals that were not.  In grant writing, however, rejection is an essential step on the path to success. 

Through its continued grant seeking, FM will lead its students by example.  Demonstrating fear of failure is not a roadblock to growth; rather, it is an essential component on the journey to success.

Jean Karutis is Director of Grants and Grant Funded Programs at FM.

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