Institute Report, February 2005
How many Citadel graduates can say – or would admit – that they helped VMI obtain over $500,000 in extramural funding for academic programs? We know of at least one, and he’s VMI’s grants, contracts and intellectual property administrator, Lt. Cmdr. Mike Sebastino.
Sebastino, a 1988 graduate of the Citadel, came to VMI in July 2003 as VMI’s first-ever grants, contracts and intellectual property administrator. Funded by a grant from the Jackson-Hope Foundation, Sebastino was tasked with assisting faculty with obtaining extramural funding and in matters related to intellectual property.
Since arriving here, he has been working with faculty members to develop the infrastructure to support an effective extramural funding program, as well as student-faculty intellectual property pursuits.
Recently, his efforts received their biggest payback thus far, as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced that it had awarded VMI a Challenge Grant in the amount of $500,000 for an endowment to support the John A. Adams ’71 Center for Military History and Strategic Analysis. Sebastino worked closely with Col. Malcolm “Kip” Muir, professor of history and director of the Adams Center, as well as the program officer at NEH to develop the winning proposal.
“Kip deserves most of the credit – it’s his program, and he did a great job in conveying the importance of the center to the people at NEH,” said Sebastino. “I just provided Kip with as much support as possible, and handled the peripheral administrative tasks, so that he could concentrate his efforts on the ‘meat’ of the proposal.”
Having someone who can reduce the administrative burden that comes with submitting most extramural proposals is something new to VMI. According to Sebastino, “the paperwork and red tape can certainly be a deterrent to faculty in responding to funding solicitations, and that’s a shame, because there are a lot of people at VMI doing high-quality work that would be very competitive.”
In the year and a half since Sebastino has been working at VMI, he has noticed a steady increase in the amount of interest in extramural funding opportunities both in the humanities and in the sciences and engineering. He has assisted faculty members in submitting proposals in support of a wide variety of activities, such as the implementation of new teaching methods and courses, undergraduate research centers, and academic conferences and scientific research.
He has also been working closely with Col. Dick Rowe, VMI’s director of research and director of VMI Research Laboratories, to develop standardized procedures for faculty members to submit extramural funding proposals in order to ensure that proposals are not only appropriate for the Institute, but that they are of the highest quality and match the stated funding objectives of the potential sponsor.
In addition to his work with grants and proposals, Sebastino has also been working on VMI’s intellectual property policies and procedures. Intellectual property includes things like patents and copyrights that are created from research and other academic pursuits.
Sebastino worked with a committee of VMI faculty and staff to develop a draft intellectual property that will enable VMI to support the intellectual property pursuits of its faculty and staff, and provide them with the potential to profit from successful inventions. In concert with this effort, he has been exploring various options to finance the activities required to obtain a patent, which generally costs around $10,000 to S15,000 per patent.