The Research University at 150

In celebration of the University’s Sesquicentennial, the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research are now accepting proposals to fund 4-6 research symposia that tackle big-picture topics with clear societal impact and that showcase the university’s research strengths. Topics should appeal to researchers in a number of disciplines and proposed presentations should invite the exploration of new or innovative approaches to pressing societal issues. Target attendance should be limited to 50-100 internal and external participants.

Funding of up to $20,000 per symposium is available. Funding for this program is made possible through the generous support of the David Dodds Henry Lectureship Fund.

Proposed Schedule

The symposia will occur simultaneously April 10-12, 2018, and will represent the culminating research event of the University’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. The proposed symposia would adhere to the following format:

  • A joint evening welcome reception for all symposia before the first day, with a single prominent keynote speaker to kick off the event
  • Topic-specific discussions (separately, in each symposium) during the first morning and early afternoon
  • A joint plenary session highlighting the strengths of interdisciplinary research in higher education and how the interdisciplinary environment fosters great scholarship, in the morning of the second day.
  • Half-day, topic-specific concluding discussions, on the second day (optional).

The symposia will also be jointly promoted as part of the Sesquicentennial celebration.

Potential Topics

Symposia topics should reflect the university’s research excellence and engage diverse scholarly disciplines, ideally representing multiple units at the university. Examples of possible topics might include the following areas. Please note that these topics are only used to illustrate possible areas of focus and should not be considered prescriptive.

  • The nature of social justice in the 21st century
  • Modern human genomics: progress and legal, medical, and societal implications
  • Migration and immigration—the implications of fleeing conflict and pursuing opportunity
  • Design thinking and the research university
  • Impacts of artificial intelligence for society
  • How food production and supply will change society in the coming decade
  • The role of the university in adapting to climate change
  • Modern neuroscience, and implications for law and ethics
  • The future of democracy in the 21st century
  • How can big data help the most vulnerable members of society
  • The scholarship of race, class and gender on a STEM campus
  • Cultures of experimentation and risk
  • Imagining techno-futures through the arts and humanities


Evaluation criteria include:

  • scholarly merit
  • relevance to societal needs
  • logistical plans for symposium
  • suitability of budget
  • potential campus interest
  • potential national and international interest


The effort must be led by a designated principal investigator, either a member of the faculty or an academic professional at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Principal investigators must have the support of their executive officers and must identify a financially responsible campus unit to provide logistical and business office support.

Experience managing the logistical and business operations of an academic meeting is preferred, but not required.

Applicant Requirements

  • Each symposium will be organized by one or more departments/colleges/institute and should showcase institutional strengths in interdisciplinary research.
  • Organizing groups will have broad flexibility in developing individual programs and invited external participants, but will be expected to coordinate with an organizing committee on overarching logistical details. A central unit will arrange and fund meeting space, as well as meals (welcoming reception, breakfast on both days, and lunch on the first day).
  • The organizing unit will be responsible for developing the schedule and format, inviting, hosting, and reimbursing external speakers, providing publicity including web sites, staffing the event, and any other administrative or logistical needs to ensure success.