Sept. 29, 2011

Excellence fund will support new initiatives; requests due Oct. 14

by Anne Krapfl

A funding request process announced last week awards dollars from the central Institutional Excellence Fund to units or interdisciplinary teams for new initiatives grounded in the university's strategic plan. Any department, unit or group may develop proposals. Their ideas should fit one of two broad categories:

  • Mission-driven initiatives that support teaching and learning, research, outreach and service, and diversity
  • Initiatives that strengthen administrative processes or the administrative infrastructure of the university

Examples of the first could include new interdisciplinary research, programs to enhance student outcomes, ideas that support those involved in teaching activities, efforts to improve diversity recruitment and retention efforts, and programs that extend the university's outreach mission.

Examples of the second could include IT systems to improve workflow efficiency, professional development, infrastructure improvements such as classroom or equipment upgrades, and deferred maintenance projects.

Every proposal requires a "sponsor" at the dean, chief information officer or vice president level, as well as a cash or in-kind match, the size of which isn't defined. Sponsors are required to prioritize all the funding proposals coming out of their respective units. Proposals should have measurable outcomes. Those that include a plan for sustainability will receive strong consideration.

Deadline approaching

Director of university budgets Dave Biedenbach said the strategic funding process is intended to be ongoing, but an Oct. 14 proposal deadline was set to jump-start it and encourage units to invest now in ideas that address the university's strategic plan. Awards will be made by Oct. 31 and most of the award dollars should be spent (or encumbered) by June 30, 2012. The leadership team in the executive vice president and provost's office will recommend proposals for funding to provost Elizabeth Hoffman, who makes the final decision.

Biedenbach said there is not a predetermined portion of the Institutional Excellence Fund committed to this fall's requests. Awards are expected to be in the $10,000 to $250,000 range, but larger ones are possible.

Excellence fund

The Institutional Excellence Fund, currently at about $6 million, allows the president and provost to "fund important new initiatives, accomplish strategic goals and position the university to compete for cutting edge opportunities." However, because of cuts to state appropriations, in the last several years the fund was used more frequently as bridge funding to help units meet budget reductions.

"We hope we're at a point to use the fund as a tool to make strategic investments, and not to manage budget cuts," Biedenbach said.

Getting started

Because of the sponsorship requirement, Biedenbach said faculty and staff should contact their unit's dean or vice president office with their idea. If there's support for the idea, those offices have copies of the request form and an information document. The documents are not online.

Questions about the funding process should be directed to associate vice president for budget and planning Ellen Rasmussen, 4-0831.