Dollars for digging: Partnership establishes Student Engagement Fund

Chris McCord, dean of the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, learns about a research project at the 2014 Undergraduate Artistry and Research Day.

A collaborative effort by two Northern Illinois University units is making funding available to undergraduates to participate in research and other student engagement projects.

The Student Engagement Fund, developed by the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will begin accepting proposals this week.

Some funding is available regardless of major while other funding is restricted to College of Liberal Arts and Science majors.

“We are so excited to launch this program and to work with an academic unit to encourage students to participate in research and student engagement,” said Julia Spears, associate vice provost for engaged learning. “Sometimes money is what stands in the way of a student participating in these activities. The Student Engagement Fund can ease some of those barriers.”

Spears added that the Student Engagement Fund replaces some of the old funding that was available, such as the Undergraduate Research Assistantship and Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program.

“The Undergraduate Special Opportunities in Artistry and Research Program (USOAR) and Research Rookies will continue,” Spears said.

The collaboration was the idea of Chris McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The university and college were supporting student research and engagement activities through many small pots of money,” he said. “By combining all those funds together, partnering with OSEEL and focusing our efforts on funding undergraduates I think we have the beginnings of a program that greatly benefits students.”

Julia Spears
Julia Spears

All NIU students in good academic standing, regardless of major, can apply for stipends to work on faculty-mentored research projects and travel to conferences.

College of Liberal Arts and Science undergraduates can apply for additional funding to cover a wide range of expenses related to student engagement experiences – research projects, NIU faculty-led Study Abroad and field schools, service learning and group travel for a class activity.

Faculty are also able to apply for stipends and travel to conferences on behalf of their students, Spears said.

All funding requests need to be submitted through the online application.

Information sessions are planned:

  • 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, Room 305 of the Holmes Student Center;
  • 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, in Altgeld Hall 125; and
  • 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, in DuSable 280.

The fund’s benefit extends much further than just supporting student research and engagement, McCord said.

“It has the potential to impact retention,” he said. “By investing in these activities we are fueling their interests and career goals. Students with a strong connection to faculty and their major thrive on campus and graduate.”

While it might be new, both Spears and McCord see opportunities for growth and to make a bigger impact in the Huskie experience.

“Some of the funding that supports the Student Engagement Fund comes from an endowment created by John and Anne Landgraf to support such activities,” McCord said. “We hope this spurs more interest from other donors.”

Deadline for the first round of funding is Feb. 15, for summer and fall activities. Oct. 1 is the deadline to submit applications for Spring 2016 activities.

For more information, contact Micheala Holtz at (815) 753-8155 or or Dave Ballantine at (815) 753-7969 or

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