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Ferris Foundation Confers $44,500 in Exceptional Merit Grant Awards to Faculty, Staff

Ferris State UniversityFerris State University faculty and staff members have been awarded $44,500 in Exceptional Merit Grants by the Ferris Foundation Board of Directors for proposals designed to advance the university’s goals of engagement and learning.

“The Ferris Foundation Merit Grants provide crucial and often foundational support for trailblazing initiatives that are creating positive and lasting change for Ferris State University students and community members in Michigan and around the nation,” said Carla Miller, executive director of the Foundation and associate vice president for Special and Leadership Gifts. “Every year, the Foundation’s Gifts and Grants Committee looks forward to seeing more new and fresh ideas to fund.” 

The following faculty and staff members will receive a portion of funding during the 2014-15 academic year for their proposals:

Patrick English, an associate professor in the College of Engineering Technology’s School of Automotive and Heavy Equipment, was awarded a grant to provide students with an opportunity to better understand vehicle battery technology.

“The first generation of a new wave of electric vehicles has started. The battery is the stumbling block to vehicle range improvements. This will concentrate the focus of future efforts for improvements on the battery itself,” English said in his proposal. “This project is the beginning of a larger project intended to bring advanced battery testing to Ferris.”

The award will create an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience with battery cells, packs and testing equipment, and also to explore what types of batteries make up the hybrid electric, extended-range electric and full electric vehicle battery packs. Graduates with a good working knowledge of electric vehicles and battery technology will have the edge in the future job market.

Sarah Hinkley, an associate professor in Ferris’ Michigan College of Optometry and chief of its Vision Rehabilitation Service, received grants for two proposals. The first project would expand the college’s “Students in Need of Eyecare” program into the community, teaching optometry students the techniques involved in pediatric exams as well as providing opportunities for clinical research and community service.

“Schools provide routine vision screenings through the public health department, yet teachers and school staff have identified that a need still exists for identifying at-risk children and ensuring that they actually receive eye examinations and glasses,” Hinkley noted in her proposal.

Since the program was initiated last year, Hinkley said MCO has been approached by many area schools wishing to participate in the program.

The second grant awarded to Hinkley will help fund her proposal to expose students and patients to the value of an interprofessional approach to vision rehabilitation through a partnership with the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Grand Rapids.

“This hands-on career training is essential to student success as a practicing optometrist, particularly if they have an interest in vision rehabilitation as part of their practices,” Hinkley wrote in her proposal. “The partnership is unique, making MCO one of the only optometry schools in the country to use a team-based approach within its own clinical services. Our students will leave their clinical training in vision rehabilitation ready to care for patients with vision loss in the most innovative and effective way.”

Jennifer Johnson, an associate professor in Social Sciences within the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, was awarded a grant to develop a sensor network for characterizing the urban heat island of Big Rapids. Funds will be used to purchase needed equipment.

“The urban heat island, characterized by elevated temperature in developed areas, is a pressing issue for many industries,” noted Johnson, who teaches geography. The grant project will yield information useful across disciplines.

“Students in architecture, construction management, energy systems and HVAC, for example, must all take into account building design and energy efficiency when planning projects.  Buildings located in urban areas will experience greater heat load in the summer,” her proposal stated.

Lisa Salvati, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, will use her award to pilot a Medication Therapy Management sub-contracting service through Ferris’ Pharmacy Care Clinic.

“MTM services allow the pharmacist to become intimately involved in the patient's plan of care … to help the patient achieve very measurable outcomes to improve overall health and well-being,” Salvati said in her grant proposal. “Pharmacy students, under the guidance of pharmacy faculty and preceptors, will conduct patient interviews, gathering medication histories and medication adherence rates, as well as reviewing for any barriers that prevent the patient from achieving optimal outcomes.”  

The project will create opportunities for students to interact directly with patients and health care providers, and to gain management experience. It will be piloted as a business, potentially generating revenue for the college and creating a model program for other community pharmacies.

Susan Wancour, an assistant professor in the College of Health Professions’ Dental Hygiene and Medical Imaging program, and Denise Byrnes, a clinical dental hygienist, will use their award to bring state-of-the-art digital intraoral camera (IOC) equipment to Ferris State’s Dental Hygiene students.

The IOC allows practitioners a real-time view of oral conditions, and makes storage and transmission of data faster for consultations, predeterminations and referrals. Digital photography also reduces patients’ exposure to germs and is more comfortable for patients than an endoscope. These benefits have created a demand for graduates with IOC training in the job market.

“The dental hygiene profession is committed to delivering the highest quality of care to each of its patients and applying advancements in technology and science to continually improve the oral health status of the population,” wrote Wancour in her proposal. “This project demonstrates exceptional merit in advancing the mission of Ferris State University and the dental hygiene profession by providing innovative learning opportunities through advanced IOC technology.”

Mary Beth Zimmer, associate professor of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, received a partial award to help support a research experience for several students and allow them to travel to a conference to present results. Research experience also opens doors for students after graduation.

“Some of our students gain the knowledge from classes that allow them to enter professional schools, such as medical school, optometry school, dental school, etc.  However, many of these top professional schools also require or strongly recommend that the students have some research experience.” Zimmer wrote in her grant proposal.

“Research experiences allow our students to really understand what the scientific process is about,” Zimmer noted. “They allow the student to work on a specific question, run experiments without knowing what the outcome will be, gather data, critically analyze and interpret the data, and draw conclusions based on their experiments in relationship to other studies in the field.”

The Ferris Foundation’s Gifts and Grants Committee develops policies and procedures, and recommends additional resources for Exceptional Merit Grants and Foundation for Excellence Scholarships.

The committee also monitors scholarship awards for compliance with donor specifications, recommends and monitors grant disbursement, and recommends student scholarship recipients for the Foundation Scholarship.

For more information or to make a gift to Ferris, please contact The Ferris Foundation at (231) 591-2365 or visit The Ferris Foundation at Details about establishing scholarships or endowments may be obtained from the Advancement Office at (231) 591-3825.