Central State hits record $50 million in research grants

Faculty at Central State University have doubled down on research in nutrition and agriculture, most funds through USDA

WILBERFORCE — Central State University was awarded over $50 million in sponsored research and external funding in 2021-22, breaking the school record for the third consecutive year.

The $50 million includes awards for faculty research, as well as workforce training, business development, equipment, scholarships, curriculum development, student support programs, outreach efforts including extension services such as 4H, and community economic development, said Morakinyo A.O. Kuti, associate provost for research at Central State.

The university shattered last year’s record of $26.7 million. Central State’s external funding has increased by over 137% over the last three years from $21.1 million in the 2019-20 school year, the university said in a statement.

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“The sustained growth demonstrates that CSU’s core value of academic excellence infused through the efforts of our faculty and staff is being recognized by funding agencies,” said CSU President Jack Thomas.

Most of the funds were awarded to the College of Science, Engineering, Technology and Agriculture, as the university has doubled down on research in nutrition, agriculture, and health.

A large chunk of grants are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including $10 million for the potential use of hemp as an aquaculture feed, awarded last year. Led by professors Brandy E. Phipps, Craig Schluttenhofer, and Krishna Kumar Nedunuri, the project also aims to train and equip new aquaculture producers, increase local production of healthy fish, and provide workforce training for Native American and African American graduates.

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The university also received a $9 million grant from the USDA to bolster its agricultural extension office, and three grants just under $600,000 for three different faculty projects — to develop economically viable and environmentally compatible water treatment technology, to develop curriculum in exercise science on the ergonomics of farm safety, and to train socially disadvantaged individuals and veterans in managing viable community-based farms.

The university also received over $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce for a Workforce Training and Business Development Center in downtown Dayton. Funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, the center is focused on workforce training for underserved communities in Clark, Greene, and Montgomery counties.

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“Research and other externally funded activities provide tremendous opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to engage in scholarly activities outside the traditional classroom settings” said F. Erik Brooks, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Projects funded will enhance CSU’s physical and human infrastructure including state of the art equipment, upgraded facilities, technology, new faculty and staff, professional development, and training opportunities.”

The growth in research funding is part of CSU’s goal to attain a “Research Two” designation from the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, which classifies colleges and universities based on research and policy analysis. Central State must award at least 20 research or scholarship doctorates in one year or at least 30 professional practice doctorates across at least two programs to earn this distinction, Kuti said.

Central State research faculty also collaborate with faculty at Ohio State University on projects dedicated to improving soil health and water quality. Both universities’ extension offices then take that research out as part of community education programs.

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