The Institute for Sustainable Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Science (SAFES) is pleased to offer faculty in the College of Agricultural Sciences the opportunity to apply for funding through the Engaged Scholarship & Experiential Learning (ESEL) 2024 Seed Grant Program.

The goal of the ESEL 2024 Seed Grant program is to develop new engaged scholarship and experiential learning (ESEL) opportunities that integrate student learning with partnerships & engagement to support enhanced integration of extension and research into the teaching mission of the SAFES institute.

Proposals may support single or multiple PIs seeking to provide students with the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning in a class to meet the needs of an external partner/stakeholder. The proposal topic should fit within the scope of the current SAFES Critical Issue Initiatives.

Examples of potential items the funding could support:

  • Purchase of small equipment for students to use in the class
  • Purchase of disposable field and/or laboratory supplies
  • Sample analysis (e.g., soil, water, plant tissue samples)
  • Class trip support (e.g., travel via bus or van to relevant sites)
  • Data acquisition or access; and
  • Purchase of new software license(s) to be used by students in the class.

An external partner/stakeholder does not need to be identified to apply for this grant. The SAFES team will help to identify a partner if a relevant connection has not been established.

Faculty (tenured, tenure track, and non-tenure-track) who hold an appointment within the College of Agricultural Sciences are eligible to apply. Other researcher (faculty in other colleges at University Park or at any Penn State Commonwealth Campus, students, postdocs, staff, agency employees, or Penn State Extension employees) may be included as collaborators. The Principal Investigator will be responsible for the application and the management of the grant. Investigators may serve as PI on only one proposal. At least one Investigator on the proposal must hold a teaching appointment within the College of Agricultural Sciences to be eligible to apply.


SAFES will provide funding to awardees in the College of Agricultural Sciences at up to $5,000 for a single PI or a collaborative team to provide an engaged scholarship or experiential learning opportunity to students that better integrates teaching, research, and extension programs.

SAFES offers post-award support for seed grant recipients. Awards should be expended by the end of the Spring 2025 semester.

Funds cannot be used for graduate student tuition, faculty salary (including supplement), standing appointment salaries of Penn State employees, way payroll, or conference travel.
Subawards to external institutions will not be allowed.


Letters of intent (max of 300 words) are required and must be submitted by Friday, May 17, 2024 using the online submission portal in InfoReady: The SAFES Research Initiative Associate and Associate Director of Partnerships & Engagement will follow up with the PI submitting the letter of intent to schedule a meeting to provide feedback in advance of the full proposal deadline.

Include the following in the letter of intent:

  • A brief summary of the new or existing course which the engaged scholarship and/or experiential learning activities will be created; and
  • A brief description of how it is envisioned that the skills developed in the course may be applied to meet the needs of an external partner/stakeholder (the PI does not need to have identified a potential external partner to apply).

Full proposals must be submitted through The deadline to apply for the 2024 SAFES ESEL Seed Grant Program will be Friday, June 14, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Include the following in the full proposal:

  • A narrative (no more than 3 pages) that contains:
    • A description of the new or existing course into which the engaged scholarship and/or experiential learning activities will be created and the typical number of students in the course;
    • A description of the skills developed in the course and the ways in which you are proposing those skills could be leveraged or applied to meet the needs of an external partner/stakeholder;
    • A description of the potential outcomes that the students would generate
      during the course and provide to the external partner/stakeholder;
    • Identification of a specific partner (if known), or a general description of the attributes of an external partner that will be useful in helping the SAFES team to identify a good match for the class;
    • A description of the significance of the project, including how the proposed
      activities integrate teaching and extension & outreach and/or research;
    • A description of how the project positively impacts each of the following: PI or project team, students, and partner;
    • Identification of the SAFES Critical Issue Initiative for which the proposed
      project is best aligned; and
    • A list of Co-PI(s), if applicable, and a description of their role on the project. The project MUST be led by primary investigators in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
  • A budget (no more than 1 page) that contains the following:
    • A description of all items; and
    • Justification of all budgeted items.
  • A two-page CV for the seed grant applicant (PI) and Co-PIs in a format similar to NSF or USDA requirements.
  • A letter of support from the external partner/stakeholder, if one has already been identified.

PIs who submit a letter of intent by May 17, 2024 will receive written feedback and the PI will be offered the opportunity to meet with the SAFES Research Initiative Associate and Associate Director of Partnerships & Engagement to discuss the feedback prior to May 31, 2024, allowing time before the June 14, 2024 deadline to incorporate feedback into the full proposal.

In addition to the requirements listed above, proposals will be considered using the following criteria:

  • Proposals from SAFES Associate and Affiliate members will be considered favorably;
  • Scientific merit and/or novelty of the proposed activities;
  • Potential to demonstrate impact from the project outcomes;
  • Projects that are an appropriate match for the size of the award;
  • Projects at the undergraduate level will be given priority over projects at the graduate level;
  • If laboratory analysis support is requested in the budget, priority will be given to projects that request support from facilities within the College of Agricultural Sciences, such as:
  • Projects that show promise for sustained collaboration with the external
    partner/stakeholder into future years will be considered favorably; and
  • Projects that show promise for successful leverage for external grant opportunities (e.g., USDA AFRI Education and Workforce Development grant; NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant).

Applicants will be notified of awards by June 28, 2024, with planned implementation of the proposal in the 2024/25 fiscal year (i.e., courses taught in the Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 semesters).

A final report on funded projects will be due no later than June 30, 2025. Reports will be submitted through InfoReady and should include the following:

  • Description of the engaged scholarship or experiential learning opportunities
    provided to the students in the class;
  • Outline or description of how funds were expended, including an explanation of the purpose of the expenses (i.e., how they furthered the project goals);
  • Description of benefits the external partner/stakeholder gains from the activities conducted by the students, including quotes from the students and photos (if available) that can be used to increase visibility of the project;
  • Documentation of media publicity (if applicable);
  • Statement regarding the enhanced integration of teaching with extension & outreach and/or research that resulted from the ESEL grant;
  • Description of additional future opportunities now possible because of the grant; and
  • An itemized invoice of all expenses on this grant since it was awarded

Questions regarding applications of the seed grant competition should be directed via email to