Request for Proposals: University Strategic Initiative Seed Grants

Last updated: February 21, 2018

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost is making funds available through seed grants to fund pilot projects that support the University’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, Our Commitment to Impact. The University’s Strategic Plan Oversight Committee invites the Penn State community to work with the appropriate Steering Committees to develop initiative proposals. Information on the overarching funding philosophy behind Penn State’s strategic initiatives can be found on our Strategic Initiative Funding Philosophy page.

Proposals will be accepted for two review cycles per year. They may be submitted by any current Penn State faculty member, staff member, or student. Proposals should clearly demonstrate how the initiative promotes one or more of the plan’s Thematic Priorities (Advancing the Arts and Humanities, Driving Digital Innovation, Enhancing Health, Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources, and Transforming Education) or Supporting Elements (Constituent Outreach and Engagement, Infrastructure and Support, and Organizational Processes). Proposals should explicitly integrate one or more of the plan’s Foundations (Enabling Access to Education, Engaging Our Students, Fostering and Embracing a Diverse World, Enhancing Global Engagement, Driving Economic Development, and Ensuring a Sustainable Future).

Click here to go the application or go to

Opportunities to Learn More

  • Webinar on RFP Process for Strategic Initiative Seed Grants: Click here to view the slides from this December 20, 2017, presentation. The complete webinar is also available on YouTube.
  • Community Forum: Update and Conversation about the Advancing the Arts & Humanities Theme in the Strategic Plan
    Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
    Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, University ParkA short proposal could bring you $50,000 to $250,000 for a project relating to the arts, humanities, or both. As part of Penn State’s strategic planning process, you are invited to a forum on funding opportunities held by the Steering Committee for Advancing the Arts and Humanities. During the forum, committee members will describe the available grants and the proposal evaluation process.You can participate in the forum in person or remotely. This forum will be live-streamed and recorded.
    For remote access, go to the following link and sign in with your Penn State access credentials:
    Community Forum: Update and Conversation about the Transforming Education Theme in the Strategic Plan
    Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 9:00-11:00 a.m.
    Location TBA

The Role of the Strategic Plan Steering Committees

The Strategic Plan Steering Committees are the bodies charged by the Executive Vice President and Provost with working with constituents to develop strategic initiatives in support of Penn State’s overall plan. It is part of the committees’ role to engage their networks to solicit a broad array of ideas. Those considering preparing a proposal are strongly encouraged to identify the appropriate committee and seek their input to develop and refine the initiative (see

Proposal Guidelines

  • Proposals will be evaluated on the strength of their alignment with a Strategic Theme or Supporting Element and on the extent to which they integrate the plan’s Foundations.
  • The funding range for individual proposals is $50,000 – $250,000. It is anticipated that approximately 10 proposals will be funded per proposal cycle (see timeline below).
  • Seed grants are not permanent funds, and proposals should include a plan for sustaining the initiatives beyond the grant-supported period.
  • Proposals should include a timeline that allows for documentable progress by the end of this strategic planning cycle in 2020.
  • Collaborations among multiple units will be given preference.
  • Proposals that address multiple components (themes, supporting elements, foundations) of the strategic plan will be given preference.
  • The evaluation form can be downloaded here. Committees may have additional criteria that they use to evaluate proposals.

Submitting a Proposal

  • Click here to go the application or go to
  • The submitting author will be the corresponding author. All notifications will go to the corresponding author.
  • While the review process is broken into three cycles, proposals will be accepted throughout the year. We anticipate that each review cycle will identify approximately 10 proposals for funding.
  • Submissions later in the academic year will receive the same level of consideration and have the same potential for funding as submissions early in the academic year.
  • If you have questions, please contact

Proposal Review Process

The Office of Planning and Assessment serves as a central repository for proposals and forwards them to the appropriate committees for regular review. Members of Strategic Plan committees may serve as authors on proposals but must recuse themselves from the evaluation of those proposals during this process. Additional supporting information may be requested of authors during the review process.

  1. First Review: Steering Committee
    • Steering Committees review proposals using the proposal evaluation form.
    • Reviews will include an evaluation of the proposed budget and identification of potential ongoing funding sources.
    • Steering Committee evaluations are forwarded to the Executive Committees.
    • Steering Committees may eliminate proposals that do not meet the guidelines of the RFP (e.g., a $1 million dollar request) but do not otherwise remove proposals from consideration.
  2. Second Review: Executive Committee
    • Executive Committees review proposals.
    • Proposals not selected for consideration by the Oversight Committee will be returned to the author(s) with feedback from the Steering and Executive Committee.
  3. Third Review: Oversight Committee
    • Oversight Committees will review proposals forwarded by the Executive Committees.
    • The Oversight Committee will present its recommendations to the committee chair, Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones.
  4. Notification
    • Funding recipients will be notified by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
    • The winning proposals will be publicized in Penn State Today.
    • Authors of proposals not selected for funding in the third review will be notified and provided with the Oversight Committee’s feedback by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. Proposals may be re-submitted after initial feedback has been addressed.

Note on Potential Conflicts of Interest: Members of Strategic Plan committees are permitted to submit proposals but must recuse themselves from the review process (i.e., they cannot be present during discussions pertaining to those proposals). Members must also recuse themselves from reviewing proposals submitted by those with whom they have a power relationship (for example, assistant professors are not to review proposals submitted by members of their tenure committee or their department head).

Initiative Proposal Timelines

While there are formal cycles for proposal submissions, reviews, and approvals, initiative proposals are accepted throughout the year. Because grants are awarded on a rolling basis, submissions at any time are encouraged and welcomed.

Cycle 1: Fall 2017

Sept. 18 Cycle 1 submission deadline.
Sept. 19 Start of Cycle 1 submission review process.
Sept. 19 –  Oct. 24 Executive Committees work with Steering Committees to review all proposals
Oct. 25 Executive Committees forward selected proposals to Oversight Committee and begin to provide feedback to the authors of proposals that were not forwarded for further review.
Nov. 1 Oversight Committee meeting to review proposals.
Nov. 2 Top proposals forwarded by Oversight Committee to Provost.
Dec. 1 Funded initiative announcement; feedback provided to the authors of proposals not selected.

Cycle 2: Spring 2018 (updated 11/29/17)

Authors are encouraged to reach out to the appropriate Steering Committee by Jan. 15 for feedback on their proposals prior to submission in order to allow time for review and feedback.
Jan. 31 Cycle 2 submission deadline.
Feb. 1 Start of Cycle 2 submission review process.
Apr. 17 Oversight Committee meeting to review proposals
Apr. 18 Top proposals forwarded by the Oversight Committee to the Provost
Mid-May Funded initiative announcement; feedback provided to the authors of proposals not selected.

Cycle 3: Fall 2018 (Tentative Dates)

Aug. date TBD Cycle 3 submission deadline.  
Aug. date TBD Start of Cycle 3 submission review process.
TBD Oversight Committee meeting to review proposals
TBD Top proposals forwarded by the Oversight Committee to the Provost
TBD Funded initiative announcement; feedback provided to the authors of proposals not selected.

Please submit questions about this process to the Office of Planning and Assessment at or (814) 863-8721.