Seed grants available for Strategic Plan pilot project proposals

Penn State is implementing a funding model this fall to help develop new strategic initiatives that align with the University’s 2016-20 Strategic Plan, Our Commitment to Impact. As part of the model, Penn State will award seed grant funding for pilot project proposals that support the strategic plan’s thematic priorities, which include transforming education, enhancing health, stewarding the planet’s resources, advancing the arts and humanities, and driving digital innovation. 

Penn State community members, including faculty and staff, are invited to submit ideas for pilot projects aimed at fulfilling the mission of the strategic plan to advance innovation, research, learning and engagement at the University and beyond.

“As we move into the next phase of implementing the strategic plan, our focus has shifted to putting tangible projects in place that will have a direct and measurable impact on advancing the University’s priorities and goals,” said Betty Harper, associate vice provost for planning and institutional research. “As part of this effort, seed grants will play a key role in giving Penn Staters a chance to have a direct role in shaping the University’s future.”

Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the academic year, and the first round of 10 awarded seed grants — for proposals submitted before Sept. 18 — will be announced in December 2017. Seed grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 will be awarded by Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost, each semester on a rolling basis.

Before Sept. 18, Penn State community members who would like to submit a project proposal can do so by working directly with one of the eight Strategic Plan Steering Committees. Individuals should identify the appropriate Steering Committee to sponsor the initiative and seek its support to develop and refine their proposal.

After Sept. 18, and throughout the rest of the academic year, individuals can submit ideas without Steering Committee input using an online form. 

“As the primary drivers of the strategic plan, the Steering Committees will play a critical role in working with their Penn State networks and constituents to guide the first round of this proposal and implementation process,” Harper said. “But we know there is a wealth of innovative thinking across the University, which is why future rounds of our request for proposals will be broader in terms of how people can submit ideas. Our goal is to encourage all faculty and staff members, as well as student organizations, to engage with the strategic plan for the betterment of Penn State.”

In addition to aligning with the strategic plan’s broad themes, proposals for pilot projects that cross unit boundaries and have the potential to develop into sustainable programs will have the best chance to receive seed grants. To be considered, proposals should strive to meet the following criteria:

  • Address multiple components of the strategic plan, including its themes, foundations and supporting elements
  • Be a collaboration among multiple Penn State units
  • Have a positive impact across departments and units at the University
  • Include a timeline for measuring progress through 2020
  • Include a plan for sustaining the initiative beyond the grant-supported period

Proposals will be accepted at any time throughout the academic year, and the strategic plan’s executive and oversight committees, along with the executive vice president and provost, will review submissions on a rolling basis and announce winners once per semester.

While seed grants will be a vital piece of the strategic plan’s funding model, the University also has prepared for the funding of additional projects — from small scale to University-wide efforts that support the strategic plan — through a combination of philanthropic and other sources.

For example, with the launch of the University’s new philanthropic campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” strategic plan committees will collaborate with University departments to develop philanthropic initiatives that support the shared imperatives of the strategic plan and philanthropic campaign, which include access and affordability, creating transformative experiences for students, and impacting the world.

“Bringing a diverse mix of ideas and initiatives to life to support the University’s future is a collaborative effort that will succeed with input and participation from the broad Penn State community,” Harper said. “Our goal is to create opportunities for projects and partnerships that address issues that are meaningful to students, faculty and staff, as well as advance the mission and reach of Penn State.”

For more information about the strategic plan funding model and seed grant process, including proposal and submission guidelines, timeline and review process, visit strategicplan.psu.edu/rfp. Questions about seed grants and other components of the strategic plan should be directed to strategicplan@psu.edu