Student Funding

Serve in Place Fund

Support communities during the COVID-19 pandemic


During this global pandemic, we’re compelled to do more to support our neighbors, community partners and fellow humans — in our home communities and around the world — even when we can’t do so face-to-face. 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 community interest, problem or public concern;
  2. Include working with and learning from a community partner;
  3. Connect and integrate community-engaged experiences with educational content; and
  4. 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 or research)

Presentations at virtual conferences

Mentored internships

Team-based consulting projects


Special consideration will be given to projects that directly benefit predominantly Black, Indigenous and/or communities of color.


$1,000 maximum

Grant awards will be awarded through January 2021, 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 spring 2021 semester are eligible to apply.

Students currently pursuing the group Certificate in Community-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 who received a summer 2020 Serve in Place Fund grant may not be eligible to receive the full $1,000 for winter break. Graduate students can receive a maximum of $1,500 in grant funding from the Office of Engagement Initiatives in an academic year, and summer funding received after July 1 counts toward the total for 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 spring 2021 Community Engagement Showcase in lieu of the end-of-project report and post-engagement seminar.



The application has a rolling deadline from November 3, 2020 until January 6, 2021.

Applicants will be notified of their funding decision within two weeks of submitting their application. Funding will show up in students’ accounts within four weeks of accepting the award.


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.
  • 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 is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how applicant plans to mitigate disease transmission risk (e.g., maintaining social distancing, working online only).
  • If applicable, explanation of how project will address historically marginalized and underserved groups (OEI is particularly interested in these projects)
  • 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 and staff review and evaluate grant applications using the following criteria:

  1. Quality of project, including feasibility, ability of project to meet community-engaged learning criteria, potential for sustainability of the partnership, potential for student impact and potential for positive community impact
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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”

Questions about your project?

Email Joy Das, program manager, at