CAMPUS Closeup: Erica Franich
Erica Franich (Grants and Research) recognized in high school that writing was her strength. She successfully turned that skill into a career, but the format and purpose have evolved over the years from print journalism to public relations to her current role as director of grants and contracts.
It is an art to draft a well-crafted proposal that secures external funding for campus scholarship—no easy task with dwindling resources in a highly competitive arena. Still, the required documentation can be relatively straightforward, factual and sometimes formulaic. To liberate her writing from those constraints and continue to challenge herself, Franich also is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at NMU on top of her job.
Journalism was her first calling back in high school. After completing related bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Franich worked as a reporter and managing editor at the Gratiot County Herald in Ithaca, Mich. Similar jobs followed at the Charlevoix Courier and in Alaska at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
“It was a fun career and I got to meet a lot of great people,” Franich said. “But it was difficult by the time I reached Fairbanks in 2008. It was a rough time for the newspaper business and I worked in features, which was even less stable. Every day at work, we would have these little pep talks celebrating the fact we still had a job. That’s not a good sign. So when I was approached by a department at the [University of Alaska-Fairbanks] that I had worked with through the newspaper, I took advantage of the new opportunity.”
The public relations position within the College of Engineering and Mines at UAF wasn’t quite what Franich expected, with more event planning than writing. Friends who worked in proposal development suggested she would do well in that area. Franich became a proposal coordinator with UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering, where—according to its website—the ratio of external funding per dollar of university support is one of the highest among research units in the University of Alaska system. The position allowed her to combine her interests in writing and science. Franich returned to Michigan in August 2012 to accept the NMU job.
“UAF was a research-intensive university and at times I felt more like a paper pusher in a big system,” she said. “Here, I’m more directly involved in projects and work closely with faculty and staff. It’s more personal. I also like the variety. It’s not just laboratory research. Proposals range from that to Upward Bound/TRIO programs to fellowships for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“At a teaching-intensive institution, if faculty members are doing scholarship, they’re really passionate and excited about it. They come to me and we work as a team to make it happen. I’m an annoyingly positive person—like a cheerleader supporting their efforts. If they receive an award, I also help them manage it to make sure they’re following the guidelines and submitting reports on time.”
Outside of work and her MFA classes, Franich enjoys reading and stand-up comedy. She often hikes the North Country Trail, which is literally out the back door of her home on CR 550 toward Big Bay, or is engaged in other outdoor activities (she is pictured sea kayaking in Homer, Alaska). Franich devotes some time each work day to swimming or other exercise at the PEIF. “I need to fit that in, otherwise I’m intolerable.” In fact, it was just after she stepped off an elliptical machine that she was asked about serving as the subject of a CAMPUS closeup. After wiping sweat from her brow and catching a recovery breath, she said “Yes.”