On a Tuesday afternoon in October, Genevia Kanu ’19 was studying in the library when her phone buzzed with an incoming text. The message was from Micah Evans, the fund development manager at the Austin nonprofit Six Square — Austin’s Black Cultural District.

“Put this on your résumé: You just won $20,000!” Evans wrote. “We’ll celebrate in the office tomorrow.”

A giant grin spread across Kanu’s face. Her grant application to local foundation A Glimmer of Hope had been an assignment for her Grant Writing course. But it was also a real proposal that, if successful, would fund a summer program that matched emerging artists with experienced mentors. Now that program would become a reality, thanks to her hard work.

Genevia Kanu sitting outside.

In the Grant Writing course, Instructor of Writing and Rhetoric Beth Eakman teaches her students how to write every part of a grant proposal, from the introduction to the line-item budget. Students use their skills on a grant application for an Austin nonprofit whose mission motivates them. For Kanu, it was Six Square, which preserves the cultural history of the six-square-mile “Negro district” created by Austin’s segregationist 1928 city plan.

Good persuasive writing is crucial to winning grants, Eakman says. “There’s $20,000 on the table, and you get it, or you don’t,” she says. “The fact that our students are trained in rhetoric, argumentation and writing makes them really well suited to this kind of challenge.”

Kanu’s training and meticulousness were integral to the application, Evans says. “She’s more detail oriented than I am, so I would send the draft to her and be like, ‘What did I miss?’ The amount of work she’s put in for us has been outstanding.”

Kanu enrolled in the course to get practical professional experience, partly because she hopes to establish her own nonprofit one day. When she read Evans’ text, Kanu says, “It felt like a success. It felt like my hard work had come to fruition.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I know what I’m doing. I feel equipped to go into the real world.’”

By Robyn Ross