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Bradley Hilltopics

Fall 2010 • Volume 16, Issue 4  



How to: Write a Grant

From left, TREVOR McGRATH ’11, JESSICA PALMER ’10, ALYSSA SHYKEN ’11, and ERIC STEINHARDT ’11 discuss their grant proposal with Lindsay Hart Rodriguez of March of Dimes.



To read students’ accounts of their grant writing, visit

For the past six years, LEE NEWTON ’94, associate professor of English, has taught a section of business writing that is mutually beneficial to Bradley students and the community. Instead of focusing on drafting hypothetical business memos, letters, and e-mails, his students put their writing skills to use in the professional world as they spend four weeks researching and developing a grant proposal for a local not-for-profit organization.

When teaching the grant-writing process, Newton starts with the basics. The students learn how to write funding proposals, select a not-for-profit, research the organization, research potential donors, present the final grant proposal to the organization, and submit the proposal to their chosen funding sources.

As grant writers, students learn to be brief, concise, and direct while presenting information in a persuasive manner that both emphasizes the benefits and attracts readers’ attention. LISA FITCH ’11 was part of a group that worked with the Center for the Prevention of Abuse. “Writing this grant has definitely tested my writing skills,” she says. “As an English major, I typically write with a completely different style, and it took a while to adapt to a more business-like approach.”

Students are accustomed to relying on secondary sources such as the Internet and books for background information, but this project involves primary research that is mainly conducted by interacting with local not-for-profits. “Students have to be in direct contact with their chosen organization, because the organization tells them exactly what they’d like to request,” Newton says.

Professor LEE NEWTON ’94 teaches grant writing as part of English 306: Business Communications. Newton believes grant writing is a useful skill for all students, regardless of their majors or career goals.

Last semester’s students also worked with March of Dimes, People Advocating for Respect and Consideration of individuals with developmental disabilities (PARC), Advocates for Access (AFA), and Hooked on Fishing (HOF). “Bigger not-for-profits can hire their own grant writers, but many of the organizations in Peoria are smaller and can't afford a large budget,” Newton says. Many students write funding proposals to local or regional corporations such as Busey Bank, CEFCU, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Caterpillar.

MELISSA HOFFMAN ’10, a public relations major whose group wrote a grant for AFA, says that finding a business that offered a grant that their not-for-profit could apply for was the biggest challenge. “Like scholarships for college students, there are many stipulations and criteria the organization has to meet in order to apply.”

Nationally, grant proposals usually generate a 10- to 15-percent return. Newton explains that if a proposal generates a 30- to 35-percent return, the students are doing very well. Especially in light of the tough economy, “students must submit great grant proposals, because not-for-profits live and die by funding,” he says. However, there are certain useful tricks of the trade, such as knowing when to request specific items instead of money and to specify that the organization accepts partial funding. MEGAN BOWEN ’10, a dietetics major whose group wrote a grant to Lowe’s for PARC, thought that deciding which items to ask for was the hardest part of the project, because “asking for too much could be a turnoff for them, and asking for too little might not really benefit PARC. We settled on requesting smaller items of importance.”

Not all the students’ grants are approved, but Newton says that “most students enjoy the experience, and they find that the knowledge they gain is relevant to any field.” JOSH RICKARD ’10, an actuarial science-business major whose group worked with HOF, agrees. “Certain fields are going to require grant writing more often than others, but simply learning to write in a persuasive manner is an important skill in any field of study,” he says.


Preston Jackson: Artist in Residence


Preston Jackson’s two- and three-dimensional work is displayed in venues throughout the world. His murals can be seen on the exteriors of Peoria buildings, and his sculptures are along the riverfront.

Now the nationally known artist is sharing his expertise with Bradley students. Jackson became the University’s artist in residence in January and will spend three more semesters teaching and critiquing. He will continue teaching one class as emeritus professor at the Art Institute in Chicago, as he has for the past two decades, but Jackson said he is happy to be on the Hilltop.

Dr. Patrick Elwood

Preston Jackson, Bradley’s artist in residence, welds a steel sculpture that is part of a series about migration. Several of Jackson’s paintings and sculptures were exhibited at the Contemporary Art Center over the summer.

“I’m kind of a romantic. I miss what a real campus is like — the greenery, the community feeling, and all of the other subjects that you can cross into,” he said. “I miss that. You can’t find that at a city school.”

Through the Inland Visual Studies Center, a program dedicated to studying Midwestern influences on visual art, culture, and music, Jackson said he plans to spend two or three days in Bradley classrooms to help students not only learn about art, but also about life.

“We learn principles and life lessons through art making,” Jackson said. “My job is to point things out and show students how to get there, like a compass.” Jackson mentors students and also works alongside them.

“I use metals, foundry, casting, drawing, and painting. I was able to work in all of those areas at the Art Institute, so that’s what I can bring to Bradley.”

Jackson, who holds a BFA from Southern Illinois University and an MFA from the University of Illinois, said he would also like to take advantage of Bradley’s strong art department and use his two-year residency as a chance to hone his own skills.

“Oscar Gillespie (professor of art) is a good friend of mine, so I think this will give me a chance to improve my printmaking skills,” he said.

Probably best known for his work with bronze castings, Jackson has received numerous public art commissions in Illinois, including a bronze of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable in Peoria and one of Chicago newsman Irv Kupcinet, located on Wacker Drive in Chicago.

Jackson owns the Raven Gallery, home to the Contemporary Art Center on Water Street in Peoria, which he founded, and he also has a studio in Chicago. He and his wife Melba have two daughters, and they split their time between Peoria and Chicago.