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Campus & Community

Applications for Winter Break grants

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President’s January Innovation Fund for Faculty seeks proposals

Harvard University President Drew Faust today announced the opening of the 2013 Winter Break grant cycle for the President’s January Innovation Fund for Faculty. Proposals may be submitted online until Sept. 21 at the program website,

Launched in 2010, the fund provides seed money to Harvard faculty to develop and implement creative student learning experiences for Winter Break. The grants are University-wide, designed to promote the kind of cross-School teaching and faculty-student interaction encouraged by Faust.

“Last year, the January Innovation Fund supported programs that brought together students, teachers, and researchers from across the University,” said Faust. “Some courses included participants from as many as six different Schools at Harvard. This diversity of perspectives allowed for a wide range of programming — from computer modeling for chemists, to design for engineers, to multimedia training for educators. We hope to build on this success in 2013.”

Although proposals for off-campus programs may extend over the entire Winter Break period, on-campus proposals that target undergraduates are limited to Wintersession, which will be Jan. 18-28. In either case, all University faculty may apply for funding.

Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds said undergraduates use Wintersession to explore new experiences and areas of interest.  The programming supported by the January Innovation Fund provides an important complement to the student-led activities that make up the majority during Wintersession.

“The faculty-led programs allow students to learn new skills from some of the University’s leading teachers and researchers,” said Hammonds, the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and of African and African American Studies. “In 2012, undergraduates studied discrete mathematics, computer science, writing, art, music, and more. These noncredit courses also give faculty more room for creativity in what they present to the students. I’m excited to see what’s in store for 2013.”

In 2012, the fund supported 15 programs, including workshops in design thinking, thesis training, bronze sculpture, and biomedical engineering. Some courses were more intimate, with only 10 to 15 students, while others had more than 100 participants. The amount of grant funding also varied greatly, depending on the scope of the proposed program.

One of the most popular courses was “Informal Learning for Children,” led by Joe Blatt, senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Blatt said his course taught students from HGSE and five other Harvard professional Schools to “conceive, research, develop, and write proposals for major multimedia educational initiatives.”

“The course explored informal learning — all we do outside of formal schooling — in an age where digital technology is becoming more and more pervasive,” he said. “Our other key aim was to develop the skill of imagining and writing a proposal for a large-scale learning project. The course culminated with an opportunity for participants to make an oral pitch to a panel of industry experts just as they would if they were out in the real world.”

Blatt said that a grant from the fund allowed him to bring in experts from Sesame Workshop, WGBH, the local museum community, and elsewhere — not for a quick conversation, but for a day or two.

“Thanks to the support of January Innovation Fund, we could bring in people from New York, the West Coast, and Boston,” he said. “They engaged with students in many different ways, through in-class presentations, over lunch, and in a consulting capacity for students working on proposals, to name just a few. As a result, many students got encouraging feedback and are continuing to pursue their ideas.”

The President’s Fund selection committee generally gives preference to proposals that emphasize innovative methods of teaching and learning, interdisciplinary work, research, international experiences, or public and community service. Large-scale programs involving significant costs are more likely to be successful if they can be cofunded with other sponsors. All proposals must have a faculty sponsor. Applicants will receive notification of funding decisions on Oct. 24. Complete information about deadlines and program requirements are available on the fund’s website.