Call for Proposals

2016 Undergraduate Special Opportunities in Artistry and Research (USOAR)

August 28, 2015

To:  Academic Deans, Curricular Deans, Advising Deans, Department Chairs, and Directors of Student Support Units 
From: Renique Kersh, Director, Office of Student Engagement & Experiential Learning
Subject: Call for Proposals

The Committee on the Undergraduate Academic Environment (CUAE) is seeking proposals from undergraduate students for projects which will involve them in independent artistry or research, under the supervision of members of the faculty and staff at NIU.  Funds may be requested to support independent artistry and research carried out during part or all of the period January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015.

Fall submissions will be accepted until 11:59pm CST on Friday, October 2, 2015. Students must submit an electronic copy of their proposal and all supplemental materials to by this date to be considered eligible. 

Spring submissions will be accepted until 11:59pm CST on Friday, February 12, 2016Students must submit an electronic copy of their proposal and all supplemental materials to by this date to be considered eligible. 

Proposal Guidelines

All proposals should be submitted using the guidelines which are described here and not using the guidelines from any previous year.  Guidelines and proposal forms are online at:

Each proposal should be submitted to  Students with a double major involving work in two different colleges may only indicate one college on their proposal.  In the event that a joint proposal is being submitted by students with majors in two different colleges, it is expected that they will indicate only one of the colleges on the proposal.  Students who are undecided as to the college of their major will select a primary supervisor, and the proposal will be assigned to the college with which that person is affiliated.  It is generally expected that the primary supervisor will be a member of the regular faculty, but the college of the student’s major may determine that other staff members with appropriate expertise can serve in this role.

Each of the six undergraduate degree-granting colleges will establish a process, coordinated by the Dean’s office, for reviewing proposals from students according to the guidelines recorded above.  Each college will develop a process for a faculty group to rank the submitted proposals and will forward all eligible proposals, with a ranking and analysis, to the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning.    

A central feature of all proposals submitted should be a clear description of a problem, question, or issue, relevant to the student’s undergraduate academic experience, which will be addressed by the independent artistry or research which the student has planned.  In preparing their proposals, students should explicitly cite direct quotes from other sources (see the “Academic Integrity” section of the Undergraduate Catalog).  In addition, students are encouraged to list appropriate references in the literature of their area of artistry or research. 

The proposal should be accompanied by a reasonably detailed statement of support from the faculty or staff member who is supervising the activity and by the student’s current transcript (An unofficial transcript will be accepted).  The statement from the faculty or staff supervisor should speak directly to the student’s ability to carry out the proposed artistry or research.  Students should be aware that faculty members, in general, need at least two weeks to write a detailed letter of support. 

A proposal may relate to an independent study experience which carries academic credit, such as a capstone project, an internship, or a special topics course which involves intensive one-on-one work with a faculty or staff member.  However, a proposal need not involve any academic credit as long as the research or artistry involved will be under the direct supervision of a faculty or staff member.  The following restrictions should be noted: 

  1. A proposal to carry out the work in a regularly scheduled academic course, without any component of independent study, will not be supported.
  2. A proposal which involves academic credit through a Study Abroad experience will not be supported unless the student provides convincing evidence that he or she will carry out a significant program of independent research or artistry during the Study Abroad experience. 
  3. A proposal to attend a professional conference will not be supported unless the student provides convincing evidence that he or she will present a paper or other record of artistic or scholarly achievement at the conference. 

Undergraduate students are encouraged to be creative in their proposals.  Grants are intended to support a wide range of appropriate activities, including visits to archaeological sites, libraries, museums, and other locations, in this country and overseas, where they would enhance their knowledge through research activities or artistic participation.  Available funds (up to a maximum of $2500 per student) depend on the quality of the project and the nature of the proposed expenses. 

In 2014, 17 projects involving 20 undergraduate students have been provided with USOAR Awards.   

Joint proposals by two or more students with similar interests in artistry and research will be considered.  However, each student must develop a clear statement of the particular issue which he or she individually wishes to address in carrying out the project. 

Workshops for interested students and their supervisors will be offered on the following dates from 12:00pm-1:00pm (same presentation on all dates):

For Fall 2015:

  • Wednesday, September 9th in Altgeld Room 125
  • Thursday, September 10th in Altgeld Room 125
  • Monday, September 14th in Altgeld Room 100
  • Thursday, September 17th in Altgeld Room 100

For Spring 2016:

  • Wednesday, December 2nd in Altgeld Room 125
  • Tuesday, January 12th in Altgeld Room 125
  • Wednesday, January 13th in Altgeld Room 125


The leaders of these workshops will explain what constitutes independent artistry and research and provide guidance on how to construct an effective proposal for funding. Example proposals can be found here.

Review of Proposals

Proposals will be reviewed by a special committee appointed for this purpose by the CUAE.  This Committee will, in turn, recommend proposals for funding to the CUAE, which will have the authority to make final decisions in the matter. Under normal circumstances, the rankings assigned by the individual colleges will be respected.  Priority will be given to those proposals which:

  • Have a clearly designed plan for addressing the problem, question, or issue which motivated the proposal;
  • Include a thorough outline of budget for independent artistry or research;
  • Include a timeline for carrying out the artistry or research involved; and
  • Give evidence that participation in the project will provide a substantial benefit to the student’s undergraduate academic experience.

In order to be eligible for an award the student must NOT be on academic probation.  The student’s complete academic record may be considered in determining whether his/her proposal should be funded. 

Senior students who will be graduating in May are not eligible to submit a USOAR proposal unless they are returning to Northern Illinois University for graduate school the immediate following fall semester.  Senior students who will be graduating in December must complete USOAR projects and submit a final report before they graduate in December.

If the student’s research will involve the collection of data from human subjects, then NIU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) will need to approve the activity.  Information about IRB procedures can be found at

Each grant recipient will be expected to file a final report describing the creation and results of the project within six weeks of the completion of the project or the end of the funding period.  The report must be signed by both the student and the faculty or staff supervisor.  If a student fails to submit a final report, he/she will be billed for any award monies received and will be ineligible to apply for a future grant.  Each recipient must also submit a detailed expense report with original invoices attached.  The expense report can be found at under the “Current USOAR Students” tab. 

More Information

Questions concerning the nature or scope of the proposals may be directed to the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning at 815-753-8154 or For example proposals, please visit this page.

Fall submissions will be accepted until Friday, October 2, 2015. Students must submit an electronic copy of their proposal and all supplemental materials to by this date to be considered eligible. 

Spring submissions will be accepted until Friday, February 12, 2016Students must submit an electronic copy of their proposal and all supplemental materials to by this date to be considered eligible. 

The Provost’s Office will make every effort to inform undergraduate students of the existence of these awards.  This will include announcements in NIU Today, placement of information on the USOAR website (, and emails to the various departmental offices.  Assistance in notifying undergraduate students of this opportunity to pursue independent artistry or research in the context of their own baccalaureate experience will be greatly appreciated.