Call for Proposals: Ben Franklin Scholars Course Design Grants

March 26, 2013

Together with the Office of the Provost, the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, the Benjamin Franklin Scholars (BFS) program is pleased to announce the BFS Course Design Grants. Grants from $2000—$5000 will be considered for exceptional proposals for the development of new BFS seminars, including those that develop innovative approaches to incorporating the theme of sustainability.

The money is to be used to facilitate innovative course components that may have expenses attached to them, with up to $2000 available as a course development stipend for the faculty member's research fund. Proposals submitted by April 12, 2013, will be given full consideration. 

Standing faculty at Penn in any of the 12 schools are eligible, and courses may be proposed for any future semester, beginning with fall 2013. We look to support innovations in the types of materials assigned, in classroom task design, in the format of graded assignments, as well as new team teaching, especially across schools. The 2012 BFS Course Design Grant recipients included courses on the psychology of food and the biological bases of male-female relations.

Four kinds of courses are especially encouraged:


These courses will design new ways of engaging students in active learning. They ask students to experience what they study, whether that be a course that brings students to work in a cognitive science lab to discover how first impressions matter, or a course on monasticism that asks students to live by the ascetic rules of an order.


Green Seminars will develop innovative approaches to the theme of sustainability across the many domains in which this topic is relevant. We look for engagement with local political issues or global environmental initiatives.


These courses will encourage students to develop their learning through hands-on engagement in the community, such as learning by teaching in local classrooms, improving health and nutrition in a school and community, or exploring Philadelphia's cultural venues. These Academically Based Community Service Courses (ABCS) and experiences help students to become active, participating citizens of a democratic society.


Courses that develop next year's theme — Sound — will be supported. We look for courses to develop the many issues that can emerge out of Penn's theme year, across historical and disciplinary boundaries. For more on next year's academic year theme, visit the Year of Sound official website.


Proposals should be under 500 words. They should outline the subject matter, the innovations planned, and the reasoning why these particular initiatives are promising. A one-page draft syllabus, outlining weekly topics, readings, and assignments, should accompany the proposal, along with a one-page budget, if applicable, and an endorsement from the department chair.

Please submit documents to BFS Associate Director Linda Wiedmann,

Faculty grant recipients will attend two sessions with the BFS team and other winners. Before they begin teaching they will present plans for their innovations, and after the course they will share a study of how these innovations worked.

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