Reforming Richter Grants
Depletion of grants due to increased student research, Mehl says
In the past year, new Director of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CRAS) Sandra Mehl has been changing the way Richter Grants are allocated to students.
During former Director of the CRAS Stephen Bailey’s time in the position, he was able to “pre-award,” as Mehl said, money to students using the next year’s budget before he received the next year’s budget. This was made possible because of his relationship with the previous program officer of the Richter trust, who retired at the same time as Bailey.
Now, Mehl is working with a different program officer.
“I had to go back to original award documents and start from basics,” Mehl said. “My program officer is much more a nuts and bolts person.”
Mehl made clear that Bailey “was completely within his rights” to allocate money before funding came through to Knox.
“He just said that he wanted flexibility,” Mehl said. “I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it that way.”
While students might think, because of Mehl being less flexible with the same amount of funding, that CRAS has run out of money earlier in the academic year than usual, that is not exactly the case.
“I’ve started to be a bit more administrative,” she said. Mehl has spent a lot of her energy creating a detailed recordkeeping system. By doing this, she is able to share more detailed information with the administration, which she said is going to earn her additional funding.
What’s more, because Mehl is not able to use funding by pre-awarding it to students in the way that Bailey did, President Roger Taylor helped CRAS by granting an additional $5,000. This money comes from Taylor’s discretionary fund provided by donations by Bud Potter, ’63, and Mary Joe Potter, ’62.
Mehl said she wants to use this funding to reconsider applications, starting with ones submitted in April, who she had to turn away because of insufficient funding.
“I know I seem like the bad guy behind the desk,” Mehl said, “but I’m using the same amounts that Steve put on paper as the limits.”
In the future, Mehl wants to further increase the transparency of CRAS funding and also have poster presentations during Homecoming weekend 2011, so current students can present to alumni the ways in which they are utilizing Knox’s resources.
“You guys are doing so much more than what students at other schools do,” she said.
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