Sustainability Scholars Grant

The Sustainability Scholars Grant program supports undergraduate students from any discipline who wish to complete a major research project focused on sustainability. These grants are designed to give students the time and resources they need for meaningful reflection and in-depth inquiry into a sustainability-related problem, issue, or solution of interest both to them and their mentors.

This grant program is very similar to other UROP programs, with two key differences: Sustainability Scholars Grant projects (1) focus on the long-term environmental, social, economic, and/or justice aspects of stewardship and sustainability, and (2) are guided by two mentors from different fields of expertise, at least one of which is a St. Thomas faculty member.

The goal of this program is to support research collaborations that address long-term environmental sustainability and stewardship by examining the interconnections between human and environmental well-being, broadly defined to include ecological, social, economic, and justice lenses. Every discipline can play a role in the long-term viability of the human-environment relationship.

Examples:

  • Economic implications of climate mitigation versus adaptation on college campuses
  • Identifying patterns between socioeconomic status and availability of farmers markets
  • Feasibility of soil remediation using native plantings
  • Links between availability of fresh vegetables and childhood obesity
  • More walking, less driving through habit disruption and social modeling
  • The role of faith communities in forming climate-related policy

Student grantees receive a stipend of $1,050 for the semester. Faculty collaborators receive $375 each.

The next application deadline for the Sustainability Scholars Grant will be 4:30 pm on November 3rd, 2017, for research to be conducted in Spring 2018.

Timeline and Application Instructions

Students wishing to apply for a Sustainability Scholars Grant will need to submit applications either in November (for research during the following spring semester) or April (for research during the following fall semester). In order to apply, you will need to:

  • Identify a faculty member who is willing to mentor you throughout the duration of the project.
  • Work with that faculty mentor to develop your application.
  • Submit the application, along with a copy of your academic transcript, by the stated deadline.
  • Ensure that your faculty mentor submits a mentor endorsement form by the stated deadline.

The Sustainability Scholars Grant application process is designed to give you, the undergraduate student, a glimpse into the grantseeking process. Just as you would in working with any funding agency, here you are asked to take the lead in developing the project and/or your grant application, gathering required support materials, following instructions and meeting deadlines.

Once your application has been received and the application deadline has passed, the Undergraduate Research Board will review all applications. Then, the board will meet to determine which students will receive grants, and all applicants will be notified of the board's decision. This process takes 3-4 weeks to complete.

Grantee and Mentor Expectations

All Sustainability Scholars Grant Awardees are expected to:

  • Complete 100 hours of work on the proposed research project over the course of the semester;
  • Complete and submit of the Student Employment Form by the posted date, with the understanding that if it is not completed, the grant will be forfeited in full;
  • Complete of the Responsible Conduct in Research and Scholarship Training prior to beginning the research project with the understanding that if it is not completed, the grant will be forfeited in full;
  • Complete of an Institutional Review Board application, if working with human subjects; submit of an existing Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol number, if working with animal subjects; 
  • Participate in the Inquiry at UST poster session following the semester of research;
  • Complete a final paper/project and submission of the paper to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program by the posted deadline; and
  • Complete a program exit survey which will be received at the end of the semester period.

All Sustainability Scholars Grant Faculty Mentors are expected to:

  • Set aside adequate time to meet with their scholar regularly throughout the term of the grant and be available on a regular basis to assist their scholar;
  • Monitor and guide their scholar’s work and teach, provide critical feedback, and direct in a timely way the research being conducted by their scholar;
  • Assist the scholar in the preparation of an application to the Institutional Review Board if working with human subjects; maintain and train the scholar in the existing Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol if working with animal subjects;
  • Assist his or her scholar in constructing his or her final paper/project that he or she will submit to UROP at the end of the grant term; review and approve the final version of the project submitted to UROP;
  • Guide the scholar in the development of a poster for presentation at Inquiry at UST; and,
  • Alert UROP of any difficulties which the scholar encounters that may hinder the progress of the scholar’s work.

Failure to carry out these responsibilities can result in the termination of the grant at the discretion of UROP. Students who do not complete all requirements will be out of compliance and will be ineligible to apply for future UROP funding. Faculty who do not complete requirements will be ineligible to receive the associated stipend.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for this program?

If you are:

1. Enrolled as a student seeking either an associate's or a bachelor's degree at the University of St. Thomas during the semester in which you will carry out your research project, and
2. Able to work 10 hours per week on your research project, then

YES you are eligible!

Are there any restrictions?

Yes, there are restrictions associated with this grant. They are as follows:

  • You may not receive a Sustainability Scholars Grant to support research for which you will receive course credit.
  • You must be sponsored and mentored by a faculty member at the University of St. Thomas. This cannot be a project that you complete solely on your own.
  • You may apply as many times as you'd like throughout your academic career; however, you may submit only one application during each round of competition and may be awarded only two Sustainability Scholars Grants during your time at UST.
  • If you are not in compliance with this or any other Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (i.e., have not turned in a paper produced with the assistance of an earlier research grant or did not participate in a required Inquiry at UST poster session), you are not eligible to receive funding under this program.
  • You may not submit a proposal that requires the use of animal subjects if your faculty member does not already have an active, approved IACUC protocol for the animals in question.

How do I get started?

The first steps towards applying for this research grant are to nail down a research topic and a faculty member who is willing to work with you and mentor you through this process. Remember that research topics can vary widely across disciplines.

Your research topic will be the driving force behind your proposal application. The more concrete, specific goal(s) you have in mind, the stronger your application will be! Sometimes the research topic leads you to find a faculty member to work with, and sometimes it is the work you have already done with a faculty member which leads you to your research topic. Either way, they go hand-in-hand.

Once you have a clear idea as to what you want to research and a faculty member has agreed to mentor and work with you, you are ready to begin preparing your proposal.

What is the role/restrictions of the faculty mentor in the development of student proposals?

In order for the review of student applications to be fair, it is important that faculty mentors follow certain guidelines in terms of how much help they give the student as they write their proposal. Obviously, faculty should not write any sections of the proposal for their student, or otherwise allow student applicants to plagiarize their work. On the other hand, in most situations it is not fair to expect students to be able to clearly communicate the importance, goals, and methodology of a project without some guidance from their mentor. As with the research project itself, the process of writing a research proposal for internal support from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (or any other funding agency) should be seen by the mentor as a teaching opportunity.

Examples of how a mentor guides their student researcher through the application process for a UROP award might include:

  1. An initial meeting to discuss the proposed research project, the guidelines of the application and how the project fits with those guidelines.
  2. Review of the entire proposal outline (written by the student), in which the mentor might suggest aspects of the project that should be added, removed or edited.
  3. Review of the entire proposal draft (written entirely by the student) point out areas that could be written more clearly, where more (or less) support is needed, or where transitional statements could be made to improve the “readability” of the document.
  4. Review of the entire second draft (written entirely by the student), helping to fine-tune the final project.

Each faculty mentor may help prepare and submit up to three students' proposals per application round. This cap applies to the total proposals across different grant programs within the same term (e.g. 1 Sustainability Scholars Grant and 2 Collaborative Inquiry Grants).

How important is it to follow the Q&A format and word counts provided on the application?

It is REQUIRED that you follow the Q&A format provided on your grant application. Do not turn your application into one, long narrative—applications that do not follow the provided format are automatically disqualified. Applications that go over the word count limit are also automatically disqualified.

As you prepare your application, please keep in mind that it is being reviewed by three different individuals. These individuals are not looking at your entire application; instead:

  • One primary and one secondary reviewer, in disciplines close to your field, will review the Project Narrative section and only the Project Narrative section.
  • One tertiary reviewer, in a discipline that is not close to your field, will review the Project Summary section and only the Project Summary section.

Each portion of your application will receive scores that are based on your responses to the questions asked, so please ensure that you answer each question thoroughly yet concisely. Those scores are then combined, standardized, and ranked to create a suggested list of awardees for the Undergraduate Research Board to review. It is to your advantage to spend time ensuring that you have answered each question on the application adequately, and in the format provided.

What do reviewers look for in a proposal?

The questions provided on your grant application are designed to help the reviewers evaluate the following:

  • Can this project be completed by this student within the given semester?
  • Does this project foster meaningful and sustained student/faculty collaboration for the semester?
  • Is the student clearly the primary collaborator, with the mentor serving as secondary collaborator?
  • How clearly articulated is/are the research question(s)?
  • How clearly does the student explain the methodology or theoretical approach he or she will use?
  • How clear is the description of why the project is important to the student’s field and in general?
  • How effectively does the background description demonstrate the importance of the proposed project?
  • To what extent are cited sources appropriate for the proposed research?
  • How effectively does the literature review provide adequate context for the proposed research?
  • To what extent are the research design, methodology, and/or theoretical approach appropriate?
  • How clear is the description of the dissemination plan?
  • How clear is the description of the anticipated impact of the research on the student’s field, the broader community, and the student’s intellectual development?

What is the difference between a technical proposal and a non-technical proposal?

Each student has the opportunity to decide which application to use. Your choices are to submit an application for a “Technical Proposal” or a “Non-Technical Proposal.”

Technical Proposals:  Typical, technical proposal are those that are carried out I those disciplines know by the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Some projects that draw on highly specialized methodologies and/or use highly technical terminologies, such as some projects in psychology or economics, may also be considered a technical proposal.

Non-Technical Proposals:  Your proposal should be considered non-technical if the characteristics described above do not apply. In most cases, proposal from the humanities, social sciences, and business are conserved non-technical.

It is the responsibility of the faculty mentor and student applicant to decide together whether a proposal is “technical” or “non-technical.” It is important to note that this designation will have absolutely no impact on whether your proposal will be funded or not, the designation simply helps the Undergraduate Research Board assign your proposal to reviewers who will be best prepared to evaluate 

How competitive is the grant and what are the chances of my project being funded?

This is a highly competitive program, with approximately 61% of proposals funded. Please be aware that many top-notch research projects cannot be funded owing to limitations on our funds. If your proposal is ultimately not funded, be sure to ask for the reviewers' coments, discuss your project and those comments with your faculty mentor, and consider applying in the future round of funding. Just because you are not funded does not mean that your proposal was not of high quality.

When proposals are otherwise equivalent, and resources are limited, reviewers may also consider the following:

Has this student been the recipient of other UROP awards?
Has this faculty member recently been the co-recipient of other UROP awards?
Have students in this department/program recently received a number of other UROP awards?

Can I apply to the program more than once?

Yes! You are welcome to apply more than once for a Sustainability Scholars Grant over successive years, regardless of whether you have received a grant in the prior years or not. You may only submit one application per round. When resources are limited, however, reviewers will give competitive preference to applicants who have never received a grant.

If you have previously received two Sustainability Scholars Grants, you have already received the maximum number. Please do not continue to apply in this case.

How do I submit my application materials?

  1. Download and save either a technical or non-technical proposal form from this website.
  2. Complete all parts of the proposal form and save as a Word document named in the following format: “[Your last name] SSG Application Spring 2018.doc” (or .docx).
  3. View your unofficial transcript on Murphy Online and save as a PDF named in the following format: “[Your last name] SSG Transcript Spring 2018.pdf”
  4. Confirm that your mentor has all the information needed to submit a Mentor Endorsement Form (Part 6 of your application) before the deadline.
  5. Go to the online application portal on this site, complete all parts of the form, and upload both your application and transcript where prompted.

All parts of your application must be received by the posted deadline to be eligible for review. You as the applicant can expect to receive a completed application confirmation within one business day of the date when all parts of your application have been received by UROP.

Please direct any questions to Laura Bru at UROP@stthomas.edu.

Application Forms

All forms and the application portal can be found on the right side of this page.

PLEASE NOTE: Applications must be completed in a question and answer format not in essay format. Write your answers below each set of questions. Any other format will be automatically disqualified. Also, please be aware of word count - any violation of the word count will automaticallyy disqualify your application.