A Research Grant Changed My Life

In the January 2011 issue of The Independent Scholar I shared a glimpse of my transition from tenure track professor to independent scholar (Vol. 24, Issue 1). In “An Independent Scholar: An Independent Voice” I focused briefly on my “calling” to practice sociology in “a more focused, public, and action-oriented capacity.”

While it had always been my desire to be a sociological interpreter of pressing social problems, it wasn’t until six years into my life as an assistant professor that I realized I might be more efficacious in my endeavors if I moved out of the Academy and into the realm of public scholarship. Though this choice may be off the beaten academic path, after working closely with health advocates and community-based organizations in my academic research I developed a ready network of collaborators. What’s more, I received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that helped me to finish a research project that would prove crucial in building a platform from which to spring.

The NEH Fellowship would support the completion of my research into the culture and industry of breast cancer in the United States, a project I began during my graduate studies and upon which I continued to build in my academic research agenda. The twelve-month Fellowship provided funding to release me from my faculty duties and complete a book manuscript on the topic. After I finished the manuscript, negotiated a book contract, and completed the Fellowship, I was ready to take the leap from faculty member to independent scholar. I left the Academy in 2010, and the book — Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health — was published by Oxford University Press, copyright 2011.

The NEH Fellowship was a key factor in my becoming a full-time independent researcher, social science writer, and health advocate. Now grantors such as NEH will be even more crucial as I continue my research from this new vantage point. If you’re an independent researcher with a PhD, I urge you to review the NEH guidelines (www.neh.gov/grants) for important details and consider applying in the next award cycle.

A fuller version of this article with the title, “Life-Changing Opportunities for Faculty and Independent Scholars: A Spotlight on the National Endowment for the Humanities,” was published in the February issue of The Independent Scholar, a publication of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars.

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11 comments to A Research Grant Changed My Life

  • This is great, Gayle. And very encouraging. There are (still) opportunities out there for those with grand ideas to get some much-needed financial help to realize them. Very encouraging and inspiring.

  • Yes, there are. We need to go get them!!!

  • Thanks for providing this information, Gayle! It’s great to know about this.

  • How inspiring, Gayle. I do hope we can eek more grants from the system to fund important research such as yours. It’s encouraging that even in this economy the money is out there when people dedicate the time to write and apply. XX

  • Your work is important, Gayle, and I am glad you have done it and will continue it.

  • Valerie Schleck

    I read your book in two days…it was compelling. I am a nurse practitioner enrolled in a doctoral program and I wanted to explore ways we can reduce women’s anxieties concerning their perceived risk of developing breast cancer, and what a breast cancer diagnosis actually means. I was diagnosed with invasive lobular when I was 42 after noticing a little dimple in my breast one evening…I made an appointment the next morning, and the rest is a well known story…bilateral mastectomies, chemo and radiation. I felt the need to be a champion, to be a successful role model and bought into the cause. I was now someone to emulate. In some ways it was very therapeutic, but I never really got to expresss how pissed I was…it was always how grateful I was to have discovered it early, that I would be there for my two little boys as they grew, and yes, there are much worse things than loosing your breasts. You neeed to have a balanced perspective. It’s O.K. to still mourn your breasts but life moves on. As a nurse I have witnessed so much suffering, that truly breaks one’s heart…but these diseases do not have sparkling pink ribbons to champion their cause. Yes we need to find a cure…but it’s a cure for all cancer’s …many of which with no available screening, no early interventions, and devastating mortality rates. When I have visited mammography waiting rooms, the tension is often quite palpable. My proposal for my resarch project was to actually conduct a risk assessment with women experiencing their first mammogram. Identify their anxiety level, talk about modifiable risk factors, and try to dispell the myths of the 1 in 8 and what that number actually means. I think knowlegeable nurse practitioners have a unique role as nurses, as health care providers to help dispel the myths and anxiety about this disease and champion healthy life styles and stewardship of the earth. Any comments/ advice/criticism would be truly so well appreciated. I am recommending your book to all for a balanced perspective. Thank-you for all you do for women. Valerie Schleck RN, ANP-BC

  • Thank you, Valerie. You read my book in two days!!! That’s incredible. I agree that nurse practitioners have a vital role to play in cutting through the sound bites and the fear mongering surrounding this disease. Feel free to send me your research report at pinkribbonblues@gmail.com.

    All the best to you,
    Gayle Sulik

  • Thank you, Ann. The work definitely continues!

  • Gayle,
    I’m glad you ended up going down this “other” path. The work you have done and continue to do gives me hope. Thanks for all your efforts.

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest cutt.ly/jei8WJr

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

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Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

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Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

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Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
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Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red The Sacramento Bee

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