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Saturday, March 02, 2024 — Houston, TX

Undergraduate teaching grant doubles

Ndidi Nwosu / Thresher

By Ivana Hsyung     1/23/24 9:24pm

Starting this year, Rice has nearly doubled the total funding available for the George R. Brown Teaching Grant from $35,000 to $60,000. Faculty may apply for the grant and receive a maximum of $8,000 in funding, an increase from the original limit of $5,000, for project proposals aimed at enriching the undergraduate educational experience.

The grant has existed for about 20 years, according to an email from Provost Amy Dittmar. In her email, Dittmar described the grant as “an incentive for faculty to get creative with their undergraduate courses and not be potentially constrained by budgets.”

Chair of the University Committee on Teaching Laura Kabiri said that improvements to the classroom funded by the grant might include “new instructional methods, new technology or even special seminars and programs.”

According to the Chair of the GRB Teaching Grant subcommittee Bruce Weisman, the monetary amount available for these awards had remained constant over many years, leading the committee to request an increase. 

“It was obvious to the teaching committee that its purchasing power, and therefore the effectiveness of the impact of the grants that we could provide, was decreasing as the number of students increased,” Wiesman said. 

According to Dittmar, award funding comes from the proceeds of a Brown Foundation gift. The gift was initially invested in an endowed fund to provide a recurring source of income, and earnings from that investment pay for the grant each year. 

Dittmar said she confirmed with budget staff that the endowed fund generates enough earnings to nearly double the award amount. 

“I’m very pleased and grateful to be able to provide this boost to the undergraduate experience at Rice,” Dittmar wrote. 

Any faculty member in undergraduate education may apply for the grant any number of times. Applications are due early March. The subcommittee assesses proposals, then sends recommendations to the provost’s office for review. Approved faculty recipients are notified around late March.

“The ability for faculty of any rank or position to apply and win a Brown Teaching Grant is one of my favorite things about this process,” Kabiri wrote. “There is no preference among professors, and we do our best to select proposals from a wide variety of course types and schools on campus.”

Weisman explains that the subcommittee specifically looks for proposals with the most potential.

“We try to agree on which ones are the most promising and have the best payoff,” Weisman said. 

The GRB Teaching Grant subcommittee involves representatives all across campus. Weisman said that the number of applications fluctuates significantly each year, but it averages around 15. Weisman added that “the number of successful applicants depends on the amounts that are requested and the amounts that are available,” and that more than half the applications are usually funded. 

“I hope that we can fund a larger fraction of the proposals and fund them more thoroughly,” Weisman said.

Kabiri said she is encouraged by the increased funds.

“The Brown Teaching Grants are a unique funding opportunity on campus that draws applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds and makes a direct impact on the undergraduate educational experience,” Kabiri wrote. “I can’t wait to see what our incredible faculty come up with this year.”

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