Presidential Initiative: Expanding the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities

The arts and the humanities enrich our lives and are essential to education, research, scholarship, and public engagement across the University of Illinois System. Instruction in these fields prepares students for a life of conscientious citizenship and creative contributions in every economic sector. Research and creative breakthroughs in these arenas help us imagine new approaches to today's social problems, drawing from deep historical experience, finely honed craft, and expertise in collaboration and improvisation.

The challenges we face today underscore how crucial it is that we embrace work in these fields. The COVID-19 crisis cannot be tackled, for example, without confronting the historical lessons from previous pandemics as well as the ethical dimensions of health disparities. Enhancing social equity requires a deep understanding of how racism intersects with cultural norms and practices in our communities. And during times of upheaval, the arts and the humanities help nurture the human spirit by offering inspirational new experiences, renewed connection to records of the past, and frameworks for valuing difference and cultivating informed debate.


President Killeen and EVP Wilson are pleased to announce the second, system-wide funding opportunity aimed at highlighting and amplifying the public good flowing from the arts and the humanities. This initiative, Expanding the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities, is consistent with our Strategic Framework, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2016. The President’s Office will provide up to $2 million to support this initiative. The goal of the program is to promote the transformational impact of the arts and the humanities at our universities and beyond.


Proposals should be no more than 4-6 pages in length and should delineate:  a) the nature and goals of the project; b) the intended participants and/or audience for the project; c) any external partnerships that will be fostered; d) anticipated dates and logistics of the project; e) related deliverables and outcomes of project; f) plans for how to connect the project to other initiatives and sustain it; and g) budget.

A letter of support is required from the dean or deans of the relevant college(s).

The deadline for proposals is April 1, 2021. Proposals can be submitted online.   


Proposals can come from faculty (tenure system and non-tenure system) at one university or across more than one of our three universities. Collaborative and/or linked proposals are encouraged, with a maximum of $200,000 awarded to any single proposal. Cost sharing is welcome but not required.  

Projects that received support from the first Presidential Initiative for the Arts and the Humanities are not eligible for this round of funding unless there is a significant new aspect to the original project.


Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Potential of the arts and/or humanities project to have a transformational and public impact within the U of I System and beyond
  • Extent to which the project involves multiple university stakeholders, especially students
  • Ability of the project to develop new partnerships with community and/or statewide organizations
  • Interdisciplinary nature of the project
  • Extent to which the project connects to ongoing initiatives at our universities such that there is sustainable impact
  • Clear and compelling budget that highlights the need for system-level funds


Funds should be used to support the visibility and impact of the arts and/or humanities at any one of our universities or across our universities. Examples of eligible types of support include: purchase of a special collection or exhibition, honoraria for artistic performances or speakers, release-time for faculty to spearhead the endeavor, undergraduate or graduate research stipends, equipment or technology needed for the project, travel/outreach to partners, and small- and large-scale event costs. Support for an individual research project or creative work typically would not be considered through this program.  

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs will work with the awardees to connect them to external funding opportunities and to public outreach/communication training.