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February 5, 2001

University Teaching Fund
revamps funding guidelines

By Michael Terrazas

Because of declining applications for funding under its original guidelines, the University Teaching Fund (UTF) has amended its grant qualifications in hopes of spurring more interest and more proposals.

The UTF, administered through a standing committee of the Faculty Council, was established in 1996 to provide resources for “innovative” teaching, encouraging faculty to design courses that were decidedly outside the mainstream of pedagogy. But current chair Arri Eisen, a senior lecturer in biology, said project proposals slowly dwindled in recent years.

Since it was founded, the UTF has distributed nearly $900,000 through more than 100 grants to more than 40 departments. In 1996–97, 37 projects totaling $230,000 were funded out of 91 proposals; in 1999–2000, just 15 projects out of 42 proposals received funding for a total of $74,000. Considering the UTF is budgeted for roughly $250,000 each year through the provost’s office, that meant a lot of resources were going unused.

“You can only be ‘innovative’ so many times,” Eisen said, offering his explanation. “It was just time, because we weren’t getting the applications, to reevaluate what we were doing. The general consensus was to broaden our mandate and renovate the guidelines.”

So Eisen and his UTF colleagues brought their suggestions to the Faculty Council in meetings late last year and in January, explaining the reasons why the committee’s funding guidelines needed to be changed and then presenting concrete proposals for the new language. The council voted earlier this month and, just like that, UTF was reborn.

Call it addition by subtraction. Rather than add new wording to describe what the UTF will fund, committee members instead decided to delete language detailing what it would not. Though the committee still hopes to encourage nontraditional projects, it struck its own ban on proposals that are not “innovative,” per se.

Also gone is language prohibiting “curriculum development” through UTF resources; under the old guidelines, this activity was discouraged on the grounds that it was the sort of thing individual departments should support. But, quite the contrary, some Faculty Council members felt curriculum development was exactly the sort of thing UTF should be funding.

“We are always walking a line between what schools and departments should be funding anyway because we are in the business of education,” Eisen said. “For example, say I want to teach a new course on the human genome project. If I need to buy some DNA lab equipment, that’s something my department should support. But let’s say that one summer I want to bring 10 students to the [National Institutes of Health]—that’s the kind of thing I would apply for through the UTF.”

Eisen said the funding cycles remain the same—April deadlines for funding available July 1, October deadlines for money on Dec. 1—and the range of $1,000–$25,000 is not set in stone. Full guidelines are available on the UTF website at


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