Making a Difference in Diverse Communities

Topics of diversity and inequality offer special opportunities to enhance teaching and research through the kinds of local and global engagement envisioned by the Penn Compact. To take full advantage of those opportunities, the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) offers “Making a Difference in Diverse Communities” grants to support multidisciplinary projects led by faculty teams working with students to address societal challenges locally, nationally, and/or internationally. The types of issues that the initiative hopes to address include inequities in education, gender, socioeconomic mobility, health care, political representation, as well as the grand challenges of climate change, poverty, and immigration. 

For a brief summary of projects supported in in the past, click here (2019), here (2018), and here (2017).

Preference will be given to projects that involve:

  • Faculty across academic divisions
  • Local residents in identifying and addressing a pressing issue in the host community
  • Opportunities for both pre-departure team-building and training
  • Team presentations to the larger SAS community at the conclusion of the project
  • Some evaluation of the short and long-term impact of the research, program, or project.    

Projects which seek to address challenges from the perspectives of two different communities are encouraged. For instance, a project could explore the effects of water shortages in major cities in California and Brazil or do service learning to improve healthy eating habits in Philadelphia and Houston.


Faculty teams must include at least one standing faculty member in SAS. Faculty are encouraged to work across academic disciplines. 

Award Amounts

Faculty members with existing or new projects that engage diverse teams of students are eligible to apply for up to $100,000 in funding.

Activities or Purchases Covered

Projects may include coursework, research, and/or service. For example, funds may be used to develop a service-learning course that takes place at Penn during the spring semester followed by a fieldwork experience during the summer where students partner with community residents to develop solutions to an important issue the community faces.

In addition to funds for course development, grants may support predeparture training, domestic and international travel, lodging, stipends for external project participants, and dissemination of findings. Graduate tuition and salary support for faculty are not allowable expenses. Projects may be developed and implemented over multiple years. Awards may be renewable. Faculty should design their project to best serve their research and teaching goals and to satisfy students’ interests in community impact. Applications should provide information about other funds available to support the project.

To Apply

Step 1: Faculty with a proposal idea are asked to discuss it informally with their divisional dean well in advance of submitting an application.

Step 2: submit the following to the SAS Research Support Application page by January 17, 2020:·        

  • Application Cover sheet
  • Brief CVs (no more than 5 pages) from faculty project directors, one of whom should be from SAS
  • 800-word proposal that includes a project summary, project rationale, goals and objectives, timeframe, budget, and plan for evaluation. The budget should include information about other funds available to support the project.
  • Plan to involve students.  If the project involves a course, address the following questions:
    • Is this a new or existing course?
    • In which semester(s) will the course be taught?
    • What is the course level (undergraduate, graduate, or cross-listed for both)?
    • Who will teach the course?
    • If the course will involve overseas travel with students, briefly describe the trip, including the planned timing, the rough itinerary, and the main educational components for students.

 Notification of Awards and Use of Funds

Reporting Requirements

A final report that details the activities supported by the grant and provides a full accounting of expenditures will be due within 90 days of the conclusion of the grant. For multi-year awards, an annual report of the same nature will be required.