On Feb. 7, an email from Chief Operating Officer & Vice President for Strategy Kanika Tomalin announced the Presidential Innovation Fund Grant Program. The program looks to fund projects aimed at supporting President Damián Fernández’s Strategic Plan.
Fernández introduced Eckerd’s strategic plan in October 2020, highlighting four pillars: Eckerd at the Edges: “Innovation in the Liberal Arts and Sciences for Our Times;” “The City as Classroom, the Campus as Laboratory;” “Inclusive Excellence: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging;” and “A Sustainable Future: Pursuing Resilience.”
With this new program, students can apply for seed grants of up to $1,000 to aid them in the process of initiating these projects. Projects that are “place-based, purpose-driven, and problem-focused, utilize an innovative and entrepreneurial approach, and involve faculty, staff, and student collaboration” will be given priority, according to the email.
Additionally, faculty and staff are able to apply for similar grants, according to Associate Vice President for Strategy David Gliem. Faculty and staff can apply for up to $5,000.
“The purpose is to really catalyze the creative capital on campus,” Gliem said. “Students and faculty and staff probably have a lot of these great ideas…the funding could be a source to get them started.”
According to Gliem, the funding process will work in accordance with Eckerd’s fiscal year. This means that the students whose applications are accepted will receive their funds on July 1, 2022 and will have those funds through June 30, 2023.
With a whole calendar year to utilize the funds, Gliem is optimistic that students can make the most out of the program.
“It’s all about providing student opportunities to develop and work on problem-based, place-based experiential kinds of learning,” Gliem said.
Assistant Dean of Faculty, Scholarships and Fellowships Kat Robinson will be the main point of contact for students interested in the program. Robinson said there will be information sessions in the near future to give interested students more information about the funding, as well as help throughout the entire process.
Robinson will also be coordinating a committee consisting of two faculty members, two staff members and one student from the Eckerd community to review the student applications.
Now almost two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson hopes that a program like this can help Eckerd get back to its foundation of “thinking outside.”
“I really feel that COVID affected our community in so many ways and one of the most profound ways has been the lack of connection with the students and their work outside of the classroom, and even within the classroom,” Robinson said. “So I think [the program] is going to be a great way to usher in a different post-COVID campus and use it as a way to mark our re-engagement with the campus and the culture, the community.”