Garden_main imageMINKIN

Eden Kinkaid

MSES student makes history with 1804 Fund win

Ashley Anderson
October 9, 2013

In the more than 30-year history of the 1804 Fund at Ohio University, no student had ever been the Principal Investigator for a grant proposal, but that didn't stop Sarah Minkin from trying -- and winning.

The Ohio University Foundation has announced that Minkin, a second year student in the Masters of Environmental Studies program at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and her advisor Arthur Trese, Associate Professor of Environmental and Plant Biology, won a $20,000 1804 Fund award. The grant will help realize their proposal "The Garden as a Classroom: Cultivating Sustainability Awareness at the West State Street Research Site."

The idea for the proposal began last fall as Minkin was brainstorming ideas for her graduate assistantship project.

"I had met with Art [Trese] and Loraine [McCosker, Environmental Studies], and they were sharing some of their ideas for long-term use of the OU Garden Space at the West State Street Research Site," said Minkin. "They expressed that they wanted more programming there, specifically for kids. Other than that, it was pretty much open."

Minkin then began researching projects at other universities, such as the University of Washington and the Ithaca Children's Garden, a partnership with Cornell University. She further explored ideas for the garden while attending the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference (OEFFA), an opportunity that was paid for by the Environmental Studies program at the Voinovich School.

"It was at OEFFA that my vision for the project was defined," said Minkin. "I got to meet, talk to, and collaborate with people. I was able to get ideas for what the actual physical space would look like and how I would do it."

Eventually Minkin began to focus in on her vision -- enhancing the West State Street Gardens with perennials, nut and fruit trees, and bringing in area students and community members for educational programming.

Minkin encountered a few hurdles while executing her project, such as elementary schools unable to bring their students because of a lack of funding for transportation, and cancelled events because of rain.

"I realized that what we really needed at the garden was a 'space.' Right now it is mainly just agricultural beds, but there is no shelter, no central meeting space were we can gather and elaborate on the lessons in the garden," said Minkin.

With these ideas in mind, Minkin began looking for sources of funding for her project, leading her to Ohio University's 1804 Fund. She recruited Trese, a previous recipient of the 1804 Fund, and together they began the proposal, which emphasized funding for a pavilion, transportation to and from the garden, as well as wages for staff members and community organizations to provide programming.

When it came time to submit the proposal, Minkin and Trese had one last thing to decide -- who would be named as Principal Investigator. In the past no student had ever received this billing.

"I wasn't even planning on being Principal Investigator because, as a grad student, I didn't think I could," said Minkin. "But I was doing the whole thing, writing the whole grant, and doing all the research."

"We looked through the rules and it didn't say it had to be a faculty member, and I told her 'if I read these rules correctly, you can be the principal investigator," said Trese. "She had done all the work and it just seemed sensible to me to give her first billing."

Since receiving the grant Minkin has hosted nearly 100 local elementary students, a learning community, and approximately 40 students from the College of Education who are incorporating the garden into their course curriculum. Additionally, she is researching local nonprofits that may be able to host workshops for the community and plans to erect the pavilion in the spring.

"I was just so happy about the grant and how it came out; I'm really proud of it," said Minkin. "The 1804 is a building block, providing a foundation that can allow the project to really grow, develop, and become a real resource for the community and the university."

Minkin is excited to share her grant-writing experience with others, and has even co-lead a grant writing workshop for Environmental Studies students. She urges students who may have an idea to "talk to other students or faculty members who might be able to give some guidance for some funding options that might be able to make it happen," she adds, "If you have that passion, motivation, and confidence you can make it happen."

The 1804 Fund was created by the Ohio University Foundation. For more information, click here

Sarah Minkin is a recipient of a $2000 fellowship grant from the National Wildlife Federation that will provide funding for the fruit trees and native perennial plants in the garden.