Student Funding

Serve in Place Fund

Support communities during the COVID-19 pandemic


During this global pandemic, we protect each other by staying home and social distancing. At the same time, we’re compelled to do more to support our neighbors, community partners and fellow humans — in our home communities and around the world. We are compelled to Serve in Place.

This fund supports students who are participating in any type of community-based research activities or community-engaged learning projects that

  1. Address a specific need, problem, or public concern;
  2. Include working with and learning from a community partner;
  3. Are connected (and well-integrated) with course content and disciplinary perspectives;
  4. For co-curricular (non-credit bearing activities): Are well-integrated with educational content that the engagement work is addressing; and
  5. Include structured, documented critical reflection.

These grants are intended to support students participating in any of the following:

Course-based engagement activities (faculty-led)

Team-based learning and research projects

Individual community-engaged projects (including programs, internships and research)

Presentations at virtual conferences

Mentored internships

Team-based consulting projects


Special consideration given to projects that directly benefit predominantly Black and/or Indigenous communities


$1,000 maximum

Summer 2020: Grants will be awarded through August, and they can’t be renewed.

Funds can’t be used toward domestic or international travel, tuition or nonrefundable program fees. However, funds can be applied toward the community project, a personal stipend or other necessary costs to ensure the project’s success.

Funds will be distributed as a credit to students’ bursar accounts.


Cornell undergraduate, graduate and professional students from any major or graduate field who plan to be enrolled for the fall 2020 semester are eligible to apply.

Students currently pursuing the group Certificate in Engaged Leadership should apply individually, not as a group. Groups who are interested in applying for this funding should contact Joy Das at

Graduate students can receive up to $1,500 in grant funding from the Office of Engagement Initiatives per academic year. Any Community-Engaged Student Travel Grant funds apply to this maximum. Serve in Place funding received before July 1 will apply toward the 2019-20 academic year. Funds received July 1 or after will apply to 2020-21.

Expectations and Deliverables

Throughout the planning and implementation of the project, students must adhere to county, statewide, national and international public health guidelines, as well as university policies.

Successful applicants will be required to attend a pre-engagement seminar, meet with an Engaged Ambassador mid-project, submit a brief end-of-project report and reflection and attend a post-engagement seminar. Applicants may present at the fall 2020 Community Engagement Showcase in lieu of the end-of-project report and post-engagement seminar.



Summer project applications have a rolling deadline from May 1 through July 31, 2020, and the review and notification process will repeat weekly.

  • Applications are reviewed: May 8 (to repeat every Friday)
  • Applicants are notified of funding decision: May 13 (to repeat every Wednesday)
  • Deadline for applicants to accept funding: May 15 (to repeat every Monday)
  • Awards are processed: May 18 (to repeat every Friday)

Awards show up in student’s accounts two weeks after processing.

The application for winter break projects will open in November.


Proposals must be submitted using the online application form, and include the following information, within the space limits described on the form.

  • Applicant name, Cornell ID number, NetID, and email address
  • Applicant graduation year, college/school, majors(s), minors(s)
  • Statement of financial hardship, if applicable
  • Project title and start/end dates
  • Community partner name, contact person, email, website and location
  • Links to relevant the local (e.g., city, county) public health department for applicant and community partner. These will be different if the student and partner are in different locations.
  • If relevant, describe how the project benefits predominantly Black and/or Indigenous communities
  • Proposal, including the following:
    • Description of the project and how it meets the community-engaged learning criteria
      • What issue of public concern the project addresses
      • How the applicant found out about the community need
      • How the project advances the applicant’s current personal, academic and career background and goals
    • Explanation of how applicant will evaluate the impact and success of the project (i.e., the achievement of objectives specified with the community partner)?
    • If relevant, description of how this project was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how applicant plans to mitigate disease transmission risk (e.g., maintaining social distancing, working online only).
  • Budget and justification of all expense requests
  • A list of any scholarships, grants or other financial resources the applicant has received or applied for that would supplement the costs of the project
  • A (a) Community Benefits Agreement signed by both the applicant and the community partner or (b) one letter of support from the community partner. This is a strict requirement.

Selection Criteria

Engaged Ambassadors, participants in the community-engaged leadership programs and staff from the Office of Engagement Initiatives will review and evaluate grant applications using the following criteria:

  1. Ability of project to meet community-engaged learning criteria, which are
    • Addresses a specific need, problem, or public concern;
    • Includes working with and learning from a community partner;
    • Is connected (and well-integrated) with course content and disciplinary perspectives;
    • For co-curricular (non-credit bearing activities): Is well-integrated with educational content that the engagement work is addressing; and
    • Includes structured, documented critical reflection.
  2. Quality of project, including feasibility, potential for sustainability of the partnership, potential for student impact and potential for positive community impact
  3. Potential for the applicant to develop in civic engagement, defined as the ability to connect academic study to social responsibility, public purpose, democracy and civic life within diverse communities and cultures
  4. Potential for the applicant to develop in ethical practice, defined as the practice of examining and communicating independently the connection between one’s actions and beliefs and the well-being of communities and society
  5. Potential for the applicant to develop skills in critical reflection, defined as the practice of describing, analyzing, interpreting and articulating your community-engaged learning experience in the context of “serving in place”
  6. Potential for project to benefit predominantly Black and/or Indigenous communities

Questions about your project?

Email Joy Das, program manager, at