It's a sad day, the end of an era, really. I sent what will very likely be my last travel funding proposals (for the WMU Prague Summer Program) to the Office of the President and the Provost today. And I shot for the moon on this one--to the tune of $3,700. I'd say that even if I don't get any funds, I've had a good run at UM. The University paid for my trip to AWP in NYC in January and for all but $400 of my trip to Russia last year. At this point, any further cash is icing on the cake. Unfortunately, now I have to strike out in search of new funding sources. I have to learn a whole new set of ropes in my ongoing effort to soak The Man for my art. But before I go, these are my tips for traveling on a University's dime:
1. Think big. Apply to every international writing program, retreat, and conference that comes along, no matter how costly.
2. Come up with a budget. Include everything you might possibly have to pay for in this budget: airfare, rental cars, gas money, program tuition/conference registration, per diem meal costs, accommodations, cab fare, visas, bus passes, etc. Always round up on any figure in your budget.
3. Come up with a proposal. How will this travel contribute to your learning? How might it possibly benefit the university? Get creative. Embrace your inner bullshitter. You can justify any expense, and you know it.
4. Go outside your department. If your department is anything like mine, it's small potatoes in the funding realm. The university president's office, however, has discretionary funds for just such occasions. So does the provost's office. So, possibly, does the Dean of Arts and Sciences (depending on your university). Send your proposals and budgets to these people. Don't be shy. In addition, the Graduate Student Association or equivalent usually has some money to throw at worthy causes, so hit them up, too.
5. Sometimes you'll need to purchase tickets and reservations on a credit card and be reimbursed after the fact. Don't sweat it. Airline tickets and hotels are the easiest things for universities to justify reimbursing, so count on those being covered before incidentals like program tuition or conference registration. Food is your least likely bet.
Appendix: AWP hints
There are lots of reasons to go to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference: networking, parties, readings, parties, free books and swag, parties, etc. I've been to AWP twice now the U-dime. Both times, I sent papers to and was accepted by the AWP Pedagogy Forum. The "paper" is really a 1-page curriculum idea for the creative writing classroom. I've never actually taught creative writing, but this is not a roadblock to having ideas about how I would teach it if given the chance. Anyway, having a paper accepted at the conference is a foolproof way of getting at least some funding.
Otherwise, get involved with your program's literary magazine and put together a proposal to represent said magazine at the conference's bookfair. Your school's litmag may already have plans or policies in place for this.
The money is there. You just have to make the commitment to finding it and making it your own. You work hard. You deserve some perks. There will likely never be another time when the money is this easy. Take advantage of it. TAKE EVERYTHING YOU CAN GET.