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SCORE: Strengthening the Core Details

At a Glance

by Application
Application Period: 
Applications are welcome anytime.
Typically one year
Amount Awarded: 
Up to $15,000


Strengthening graduate education within academic departments and degree programs is crucial for ensuring our students have the best possible educational experiences.

Dynamic changes within universities and disciplines, as well as broader contexts, make thoughtful reconsideration of our approaches to graduate education a top priority. The VPGE’s SCORE (Strengthening the Core) Academic Innovation Funds are available for faculty to scrutinize long-existing practices and test new approaches for graduate education, within a department or across several academic programs.

When reflecting on graduate programs, faculty have been deliberating about fundamental expectations for advanced study and skill development within their specialized fields as well as identifying opportunities for innovative approaches. Faculty have also been interested in exploring how to prepare graduate students for work and life so they contribute meaningfully for decades to come.  We are fortunate that Stanford has outstanding resources for professional development and career exploration that complement what faculty offer locally in departments.

During VPGE’s tenth year, 2016-17, we had a “What’s possible?” web portal, asking students, faculty, and staff what they value about graduate education at Stanford and what could be done to enhance the quality of graduate education and graduate students’ experiences at Stanford. Several themes emerged in response to the second question:

  • improving the quality of faculty-student advising and mentoring
  • fostering a more diverse and inclusive community, while also reducing isolation
  • supporting students to explore and prepare for a variety of career paths
  • engaging graduate students more fully in Stanford’s collaborative intellectual community

We encourage you to apply for SCORE Academic Innovation Funds for pilot projects of up to one year to address these and other issues that are salient within your department or program. We are particularly interested in supporting innovative ideas that emerge locally, so encourage you to seek ideas from your community of faculty, students, and staff.

SCORE Projects

Recent SCORE projects include:

  • designing advising workshops for faculty as well as for graduate students
  • revising core graduate courses to integrate new teaching and learning methods and technologies
  • examining department or program degree requirements and degree progress milestones
  • developing new courses, including interdisciplinary courses, that integrate knowledge in new ways and attract students from other departments and programs
  • examining recruitment and admissions practices to enroll students from more diverse backgrounds and life experiences
  • collaborating across departments to create an interdisciplinary seminar, symposium, or retreat where students present their research
  • inviting alumni to speak at career panels to illustrate a range of careers options responding to findings from the PhD Exit Survey, especially related to program quality, advising, funding, career preparation, and obstacles to academic progress.


How To Apply

To apply for SCORE Academic Innovation Funds, faculty should submit the following via email to Vice Provost Stacey Bent, Proposals are considered on a rolling basis.

1)  A brief project description that answers the following questions:

  • Which challenge are you addressing? Why is this timely and relevant for your discipline and department? How is this project innovative?
  • What plan of action is proposed? What do you intend to do? Recognizing that plans will evolve, what is the timeline for planning and implementation? Who is leading the project?
  • For course revision or development proposals, which students do you envision will benefit?  What is the anticipated demand?
  • What do you hope to learn and achieve from this project? How will you evaluate the outcomes?

2)  A brief budget request. Requests of up to $15,000 will be considered. Funds may be used for meeting or event expenses, graduate research assistants or teaching assistants, outside consultants, including focus group facilitators, and other reasonable costs. Requests for expenses that would typically be covered by departmental funds, such as faculty salaries, are rarely covered and should be clearly justified. Applicants are encouraged to pursue cost-sharing opportunities, such as School or department funds, when possible.

3)  A brief endorsement from the Director of Graduate Studies, Department Chair, or IDP Program Director (email is sufficient).

Awards are made on a competitive basis by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education. Proposal budgets and scope of activities may be refined and negotiated. A brief summary (via email) at the end of the project should reflect on how well objectives were met and lessons learned for the future, and list how funds were expended.