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.


  • 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 $1,250 for the semester. Faculty collaborators receive $375 each.


Applications for research projects to be carried out in Spring 2021 are due at 10:00 pm on Monday, November 2.

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 4-6 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 an existing Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol number, if working with animal subjects; 
  • Participate in the Inquiry 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; 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

If you are:

1. Enrolled as a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of St. Thomas during the semester in which you will carry out your Collaborative Inquiry research project, and
2. Able to work 10 hours per week on your research project, then

YES you are eligible!

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

No Academic CreditYou may not receive academic credit for the research you are doing as a Young Scholars Grant recipient.

Current Academic StandingYou must be a degree-seeking student at the University of St. Thomas during the time of your application, as well as during the semester following your Young Scholars grant period.

No Additional FundingYou may not accept additional scholarship or grant funding (except for a Summer Housing Grant) related to your Young Scholars Grant project during the grant period.

Faculty Mentoring RequiredYou must be mentored by a faculty member at the University of St. Thomas in order to receive a Young Scholars grant. This cannot be a project that you complete solely on your own.

No Outside Employment or Course Enrollment: (applies to full-time grant applicants) As a UROP grant recipient, you will be required to work full-time on your project for ten weeks during the summer. This means you may not take on additional remunerative employment, on campus or off, nor can you take classes during this time, including evenings and weekends. The purpose of this grant program is to free you from having to spend time on other paid employment. Before applying for a full-time UROP summer grant, please ensure that you are able to work exclusively on this project full-time for 10 weeks over the summer.

Previous ComplianceIf you previously received notification from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program that you are out of compliance with any other Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program program (for example, if you did not turn in a final paper or report at the end of a previous grant term, or if you neglected to attend the Inquiry poster session), you are not eligible to receive funding under this program.

Where applicable, Active IACUC Protocol: 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.

Yes! International students enrolled in an undergraduate degree program may participate. If selected for a UROP award, a student will be employed through an hourly position on campus, part-time during the semester and full-time during the summer. International students preparing a grant proposal should discuss their employment plans with OISS to ensure that employment as a student researcher will not conflict with any student visa requirements and restrictions.

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. Past grant recipients have spent their time examining the curation of Native American art, sensing a better way to conduct autism research, researching how welcoming Minnesota is to refugees, to name just a few!

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.

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.

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.

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?

Reviewers rely on an evaluation rubric and weighted scoring to rank your proposals against others in the same round. You can review that rubric and the points breakdown in the sidebar of this page.

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 Media Summary section and only the Media 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.

This is a highly competitive program, with approximately 65% 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.

Yes! You are welcome to apply more than once for a UROP 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 academic year UROP grants, you have already received the maximum number. Please do not continue to apply in this case.

  1. Download and save a 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] Proposal.doc” (or .docx).
  3. View your unofficial transcript on Murphy Online and save as a PDF named in the following format: “[Your last name] Transcript.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 will receive an automated email confirmation when your own submission and your mentor's endorsement form have been received by UROP. It is your responsibility to ensure that all submitted materials meet the stated criteria for review, so please direct any questions to Laura Bru at before 4:30 pm on the last regular working day before the posted deadline. Email is not monitored on nights and weekends.

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

A complete proposal will consist of the following components and will be reviewed by members of the Undergraduate Research Board. THE APPLICATION MUST BE COMPLETED IN A QUESTION AND ANSWER FORMAT – NOT IN ESSAY FORMAT. Insert your answers below each question in the Word document application form. Read all instructions within the proposal template carefully.

1. Project Narrative

This component of your proposal consists of five major sections.  In this area of your proposal, you will be evaluated on the clarity of your proposal, the quality of your project design, and the scholarly merit and appropriateness of your proposed inquiry and outcomes. You can expect your readers to have some expertise in your field or a field related to your own, but it is still incumbent upon you to communicate clearly and educate your reader about the methods and aims of your work. Any necessary disciplinary jargon is allowed here, but be sure to include a glossary of terms in your appendices if you use jargon.

2. Media Summary
In this section, you will be asked to briefly explain your proposed research to a non-specialist. Reviewers of your application will evaluate the extent to which you are able to articulate your research to an educated non-expert reader, that is, a reader who does not work in a field related to your own. Answer all of the questions as completely as possible, write clearly and concisely, and avoid disciplinary jargon.

3. Project Logistics

You must include a Timeline, succinctly stating what you plan to do and when over the course of the semester, identify your final product or project, and provide a brief Dissemination Plan.  Applications missing any of these items will not be reviewed.

Please be aware: the final product or project you outline here will be the product you are expected to deliver to UROP in digital form at the close of your grant, if awarded, to complete your final requirements.

4. Any Needed Appendices

Appendices may include at your discretion:

- References:  You should be certain to include appropriate references to the literature you cited in the narrative. Proper bibliography citations should appear at the end of the narrative section. Use the format for citations that is the standard for your field.

- Glossary of terms:  This appendix should include a glossary of any technical terms that may be unfamiliar to readers outside of your discipline.

- Supporting figures:  This section should include the figures that you discuss in the proposal narrative. They must be labeled (for example, Fig. 1, Fig, 2, etc.) and referred to within the proposal.

- Special expenses budget:  Include this appendix only if your project will require additional funds to be viable. This appendix should include a detailed, line-item budget, listing such special project-related expenses as chemicals, unusual materials, etc., that you will need in order to carry out your research.

  • These costs may be contributed by the department in which your project is housed. If this is the case, your faculty advisor must sign a statement indicating that the department will bear these costs; append this statement to your full proposal.
  • Alternately, you may request that UROP cover some of these costs. Additional UROP funding is limited and entirely dependent on underspending in other programs in the fiscal year in which the award will be started. If you need to request these funds, include this appendix and respond to the appropriate questions in the application portal to state your needs. Note: The only guaranteed funding of an offered UROP grant is the stated student and faculty stipend. Add-on funds must be confirmed separately and no spending should take place without separate, written approval.

- Treatment of human and animal subjects: You should include a brief appendix explaining your work with animal or human subjects. This appendix will serve as an overview only of your intended work; research proposals relying on human or animal subjects are subjected to additional scrutiny once approved for funding.

  • Process: If your project will use human subjects and you are awarded a grant, your proposal will be reviewed by the Institutional Review Board once the award is confirmed. In the application portal, you will be required to indicate that you understand that your proposal, if funded, will be subject to additional review. You will be contacted by the IRB to begin the process of submitting a new IRB protocol for approval only if funding is awarded.
  • Process: If your project will use animal subjects and you are awarded a grant, your proposal will be reviewed by the Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee once the award is confirmed. In the application portal, you will be required to indicate that you understand that your proposal, if funded, will be subject to additional review. You must provide an existing IACUC protocol number at the time of application.

- External letters of support when appropriate:  If you need equipment and/or library materials that are not available through ACTC libraries or inter-library loan, or if your project will require the cooperation of any person or agency outside the UST community, include a letter from that party indicating his or her willingness to help. Include this appendix only if you will need cooperation from individuals or institutions outside of the UST community

5. Transcript of College Grades (unofficial)
You may go online to Murphy/Student Services/Student Records/Academic Transcript to save your unofficial transcript as a PDF. This will be uploaded as a part of your online application.

6. Mentor Endorsement Form
This must be completed by the faculty member who is mentoring your project. This is an online form also linked on the right side of this page.

Parts 1-4 must be saved as a single Word document and uploaded through the online application portal on the right side of this pagePart 5 must be uploaded as a PDF at the same time. For Part 6, mentors must submit the form online. All six parts must be received at the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program by midnight on the posted deadline.