by Emma Keese, ’16

When Emma Keese ’16 enrolled in Beloit’s Grant Writing course (IDST 210/WRIT 200) in Spring 2016, she couldn’t have imagined that during the course she would author a grant proposal on behalf of the Wisconsin Green Schools Network that would be awarded $91,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency a year later.  “I was shocked,” she admits.  “It had been so long since I had written the grant and then I got this call out of the blue. I admit I was also kept on tenterhooks when I first found out since the EPA wanted to award us the grant but weren’t sure whether funding would come through. So when I finally found out that we got the go ahead I was mostly relieved.”

Emma is one of two students whose grant proposals, written in the course, were awarded. (The other is Sarah Mueller, ’16).  To find out more about her exceptional liberal arts in practice achievement on behalf of a community partner (and to the benefit of her own learning!), keep on reading below.

Wisconsin Green Schools Network is a committee of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF), where I have taken many roles since Professor Sue Swanson first introduced the organization to me my freshman year. My first year I was a student in the inaugural class of the Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC), a group that provides students with conservation policy, communication and advocacy training. I returned as mentor to later classes and finally as the Coordinator of the CLC and Vice-President of the CLC board.

My role at the WWF was always a very direct, inward facing one; I was a student, a mentor, and a coordinator. Grant Writing gave me the chance to see all the work that goes into creating and funding a program like the one I took part in.  I had been both a student and a teacher but I had not yet been part of program development.  I definitely have a better appreciation of how much effort and planning happens before the first student applications even arrived.

Grant writing is a particular type of technical writing that I didn’t have experience with prior to the course.  For the first time I had to think about how organizations represent themselves. I hadn’t thought much before about what funders and partners would want to see us focus on. They say that no man is an island and the same is definitely true for non-profits; we rely on volunteers, funders and other partners to amplify our collective impact.

I co-authored the grant with my supervisor Victoria Rydberg, who lived halfway across the state from Beloit . . . so I also definitely practiced my communication skills. She did everything possible to make sure we wrote an excellent grant and that I learned everything I could from her.

The grant, which has been adjusted to $71,000 due to budget cuts at the EPA, will help adapt an existing environmental stewardship program at Wisconsin Green Schools Network.  The program engages students in academic learning through implementing community-based environmental stewardship projects.  EPA funding will help provide a more flexible, adaptable model to meet the needs of more schools, particularly schools with low income, minority and native youth. 

I am currently working for the City of Tacoma as a Sustainability Specialist. I love working on sustainability issues and being back in the Puget Sound area, which is where I’m from. My job always keeps me on my toes; from giving presentations to a small number of residents to coordinating 2,000+ people events. I’m loving every second of it!

What I learned has also been useful to me outside of work. It has helped me figure out where and how to focus my efforts for the best result. I’ve discovered non-profits that are not only fighting for a good cause but fighting effectively. In turn, that is where I want to invest my time and energy.

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work on another grant application in my current position, but think the general writing and communication skills have been very useful. I also work with a lot of non-profits in my current position and my deepened understanding of their structure, concerns and aspirations has come in handy more than once! And when I do get the chance to work on another grant I’ll be prepared!




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