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CUSP Independent Research & Creative Projects Grant


The CUSP Independent Research and Creative Project provides partial financial support for Scholars who wish to conduct their own independent research or creative project under the guidance of a professor or creative professional.

The Independent Project Fellowship affords scholars the opportunity to engage with the methodological framework of independent academic research and/or the creative process. A branch of the summer enhancement fellowship, the independent program differs from the practicum in that it aims to familiarize students with the skill set specific to formal academic writing and researching, which includes preparing a research statement, developing an appropriate research question, working with an academic mentor, and utilizing academic resources, such as the Columbia University archives. The fellowship thus serves as an invaluable foundation for students who might be interested in writing an undergraduate thesis, pursuing a graduate degree or producing a portfolio.

Students considering the independent project should be aware that the process requires sustained and serious commitment. In order to qualify for the fellowship, students must attend a series of preparatory workshops facilitated by the Graduate Student Mentors, find a faculty sponsor who will support their project, prepare drafts of their work for feedback ahead of the submission deadlines, and present their work to their peers in a panel session during the fall semester following the summer experience.

All Scholars funded for Summer 2020 are expected to:

  • Post a response on an educational blog on a weekly basis during the summer, beginning in June. The final blog entry will consist of the abstract.
  • Provide a budget reconciliation report listing their CUSP-related expenses and appropriate original receipts. This will be due by the Welcome Back Dinner & SEF Showcase at the start of the Fall 2020 term.

  • Submit a paper (20-25 pages, with at least one visual representing the project) at the start of the Fall 2020 term.

  • Present the results of their research at the SEF Independent Projects Panel in the Fall 2020 term.


* SEF Independent Projects Panel (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Monday, October 21, 2019
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Lecture Room, Pulitzer Hall


* SEF Information Session (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Monday, November 11, 2019
6:00-8:00 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, CEPSR


* Independent Projects Workshop #1 (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Monday, November 18, 2019
6:00-8:00 p.m.
401 Lerner Hall

What is the difference between an independent research project and a creative project? What does an independent project proposal entail? Graduate Student Mentors will introduce the components of the research proposal beginning with the title and ending with the budget. This workshop will address how to formulate appropriate problem statements, research questions, bibliography, finding a mentor, etc. GSM's will introduce students to resources on campus such as the writing center, Columbia library info services, etc. 

The workshop will cover the following items: 

  • What is expected of students who receive the grant

  • Overview of deadlines, requirements, budget guidelines, codes of behavior

  • Identifying and developing a research question or topic

  • IRB/RASCAL Training

  • Writing the research proposal and thesis

  • Finding a mentor

  • On-campus resources


* DEADLINE:  Monday, January 27, 2020 (11:59 pm): DRAFT PROPOSAL DUE

  • The proposal should explain a plan or suggestion for the CUSP Independent Project Summer Fellowship
  • Identify possible faculty adviser
  • Prepare a 5 minute "elevator speech" for feedback
  • Please send proposals to CUSP (
  • Any draft submitted after January 28 will not be considered.


* Independent Projects: Workshop #2 (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)
   Wednesday, February 12, 2020 
   6:00-8:00 p.m.
   403-H Lerner Hall
Working with their draft proposals, students break into small groups to discuss their proposals with the GSMs and their peers. Fellow students will provide constructive feedback. 
* A to Z Workshop #3: For all Scholars applying for Summer Funding (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)
  Friday, March 27, 2020
  3:00-5:00 p.m.
  Davis Auditorium
* Online Application Deadline
   Monday, April 22, 2020, NOON


In accordance with the Undergraduate International Travel Policyall students traveling overseas with CUSP SEF funding must submit a school sponsorship application and receive approval by Friday, May 29, 2020. Please label your your program name in this arrangement: [Last Name] [Related Office or Department or Funding Program] [Program Type] [Year]. For example, [Bennett] [CUSP] [SEF] [2020]. 

Your school sponsorship request may take up to 4 or more weeks to be processed. With that in mind, we recommend that you initiate this school sponsorship application at your earliest convenience - even if you have not confirmed all of the details of your travel plans.  Confirmation of your school sponsorship is REQUIRED in order to receive SEF funds. Also, you can submit the school sponsorship request before completing the SEF application. IMPORTANT: You must receive school sponsorship approval before Friday May 29th, otherwise we will not be able to consider your application for funding.

Once you receive confirmation of your school sponsorship, log in to the Undergraduate Travel Web App to complete:

  • The online pre-departure orientation; and
  • The Assumption of Risk declaration, waiver, and release form.

Additionally, all students must:

  • Register their travel (including side trips) through the International SOS.
  • Confirm that, while abroad, you will be covered by a health insurance policy that also provides coverage outside the United States for routine, urgent and emergency care.

It is critical that you familiarize yourself thoroughly with the Undergraduate International Travel Policy and complete all steps outlined above. For related questions, contact

Submitting a school sponsorship application does not guarantee that you will receive CUSP funding. However, please be aware that without school sponsorship, your SEF application will not be reviewed.  Students who submit a school sponsorship application and do not receive a CUSP SEF funding award must withdraw their school sponsorship application (unless supported by a different Columbia-led program). 



* APPLICATIONS FOR SUMMER 2020 WILL BE DUE MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2020 BY NOON. Applications will be available in mid-March 2020 and must be submitted via webform. Your faculty supporter will need to complete a form as part of your application; please be sure to provide to them with the email presented on the application and your Columbia UNI. A link will be sent to you via an email confirmation following your application submission and you can forward the link to the supporter for completion. Faculty sponsors will need only to respond to multiple choice and short questions. The faculty member must submit their support form no later than Friday, April 24, 2020. You will receive confirmation once the faculty member submits their form.

Applications will be evaluated by a selection committee on the basis of their overall fulfillment of the selection criteria (see below). Incomplete applications and candidates who do not meet the criteria will not be considered. Notification of the final decision will take place in late May.

The online application must be completed in one sitting; you will not be able to save and continue your submission. As such, you should have available at the time of your submission: the logistical information about your Independent Project and contacts; your resume and project proposal as a .doc or .pdf ready for upload; your budget breakdown (e.g. amount for food, transportation, and housing); and an essay answering the supplementary questions as a .doc or .pdf. The supplemental questions will ask you to describe the CUSP events that you attended and how each event contributed to your understanding of this year's theme of Lateness. If you were approved to attend alternate events due to academic conflicts, then you will have to describe your experiences at those events.  

* Criteria for Selection: To be considered for the grant, applicants must: (1) have a GPA of at least 3.0; (2) be in good academic standing with Columbia College and the School of Engineering; (3) be in good standing with CUSP; and (4) have attended at least EIGHT CUSP events in an academic year.

Applications will be evaluated on: (1) the basis of the originality and scholarly promise of the project; (2) the feasibility, clarity, and coherence of the proposal; (3) the ability of the applicant to undertake the research; and (4) the commitment of a faculty sponsor.

* Human Subjects Research: Many applicants wish to undertake “human subjects research” in which they interview or survey people. Because of the importance of treating human subjects ethically and ensuring that no harm comes to someone who participates in research, all universities are federally mandated to oversee approval of all human subject research through an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Given the short duration of SEF Independent Projects, CUSP will not support projects by Scholars requiring IRB approval unless they are listed as an approved researcher by the faculty sponsor. For applicants wishing to undertake such research, the letter from the faculty sponsor must include a statement confirming that the IRB process has been fulfilled. For questions regarding IRB permits, please contact Annie Barry (, Assistant Manager, Institutional Review Board (IRB). 



To apply for the SEF Independent Project award, please CLICK HERE - SEF APPLICATION!

Good luck! We look forward to reviewing your applications.

Questions about the SEF application? Contact us at

* IMPORTANT: CUSP does not vet the safety or security of the setting in which Scholars intend to pursue their projects.  It is the individual students’ responsibility to take the appropriate precautions follwing the approval and recommendations of the Undergraduate Travel Committee. The nature of this fellowship is solely for financial support.   

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