New Graduate Student Innovation Grant fuels creative ideas

University Communications

Seven student-designed projects have received funding from the new Graduate Student Innovation Grant, which provides seed money of up to $5,000 for initiatives overseen by graduate students from the academic divisions and professional schools.

One model for the new program is the student-run Uncommon Fund, which helps undergraduate and graduate students pursue creative ideas to enhance student life.

“We were very much inspired by the Uncommon Fund,” said Brooke Noonan, Director of Graduate Student Affairs. “A group of graduate students who had applied last year to the Uncommon Fund did not receive full funding for their project. They approached our office to see if we'd be willing to sponsor the balance, which we were. We decided that going forward it would be important to have a similar opportunity available especially for graduate students.”

The project to receive funding last year was the Mini MBA Conference, which provided a one-day overview of business skills to more than 100 graduate students. While the University provides many services, it is not always easy to tell where there is room for improvement. Offering students a way to fund creative projects helps alleviate this problem, Noonan said.

The breadth of the projects speaks to the potential of the Innovation Grant. Some initiatives will provide skill instruction, such as a program on open source dissertation writing tools and a reprisal of the Mini MBA Conference. Others are aimed at academic enrichment, including a forum on Sino-US relations and Disability Matters, a conference that will address issues facing graduate students with disabilities. Another recipient was the Chicago Art Journal, a student-run art history publication founded in 1991, which combines scholarly essays with interviews and reviews.

The Chicago Art Journal always has raised funds from the University to simply cover publication costs," said Solveig Nelson, editor of the Chicago Art Journal. “This has worked fine, but there was also no budget to expand the journal and start a website in the face of a changing publishing environment.”

The grant will allow the publication to team up with a development firm and students from the Department of Visual Arts to design and implement a new website. “This is a critical opportunity for the journal to move forward, develop new audiences, and provide opportunities for students throughout the University to learn about publishing and peer-editing,” said Nelson.

Funding for a website could not have come at a better time, as the Chicago Art Journal's next issue will explore the interactions between art scholarship and new media.

A list of all the winning projects can be found here.