Department Innovation Grants

Berkeley Discover Departmental Innovation Award Program

Launched in 2020 through a generous gift from the Chernin family, the Berkeley Discover Departmental Innovation Award Program provides funding and guidance to departments for a  multi-year process of weaving the “Discovery Arc” into the fabric of the undergraduate experience within their unit. This ambitious effort to transform curriculum is a cornerstone of the broader undergraduate discovery initiative. The first cohort of recipients were selected in May 2021. 

What is the Discovery Arc?

Berkeley Discovery is a campus-wide initiative to transform undergraduate education. Born out of the 2018 Strategic Plan, Berkeley Discovery envisions a new framework for the undergraduate experience where students embark on a journey of creative exploration from the moment they arrive on campus. Discovery writ large is more than a single discrete experience or one-semester capstone project. Discovery is an intentional and holistic arc that supports students on a journey of self-actualization. Discovery ultimately aims to instill a life-long ethos of engaging with grand challenges, fostering creativity, and journeying toward innovation.

The Discovery Arc unfolds in three phases. In the opening phase, students are introduced to a creative vision of higher education: one where they can bring together their unique academic interests with the University’s vast resources to create a personalized journey. During this opening phase, the Berkeley Connect program – in partnership with other student support efforts - provides entry to the many paths of Discovery by fostering a sense of belonging at the University and a culture of personal agency. In the second phase, students are exposed to Discovery early in the curriculum through immersive, engaged, and inquiry-driven learning. This second phase invites students to grow beyond being passive recipients of knowledge and become self-directed and creative agents in their education. The culminating phase of the Discovery Arc allows students to apply and express their knowledge and passion through a personalized Discovery experience, whether through original research, artistic production, entrepreneurial initiatives, or community-engaged service. Ultimately, the Discovery Arc invites students to engage boldly with their own journey - and with the world.

What are the Berkeley Discover Departmental Innovation Awards?

Berkeley Discover is a new initiative to develop and infuse the Discovery Arc throughout the undergraduate experience. The Departmental Innovation Awards will provide funding and Berkeley Discovery staff guidance to departments in a multi-year process of weaving Discovery into the fabric of the undergraduate experience.

The initial cycle of the Departmental Innovation Award Program will focus on creating models of success in a selection of departments (or clusters of departments) across campus. These departmental pilots will foster innovation through an iterative process. During this pilot, selected departments will be awarded up to $200,000 annually for up to 4 consecutive years. The current academic year (2020-2021) will be dedicated to developing partnerships and beginning a collaborative design process. Academic year 2021-2022 will focus on initial implementation of new programming. Years 2022-2024 will focus on broadening, assessing, and refining pilot offerings. Year 5 will focus on sustainability of programmatic efforts within departments and sharing best practices across campus to help Discovery become an integral and universal component of the UC Berkeley experience.

Grant funds can be used in a variety of ways including faculty summer salaries, postdoc discovery fellowships, graduate student instructor stipends, undergraduate project grants, campus and community partnerships, and technology support. Ultimately, resources should be used to build programmatic innovations that will be financially sustainable for the department after the end of the grant period.

Participating departments are expected to take bold strides toward creating a Discovery Arc in their unit and advance a number of shared goals. However, each department is encouraged to approach this challenge in different ways. There are no prerequisites and no expectations of a one-size-fits all solution. The key goals of the broader Discovery Initiative are:

  • Elevate Discovery to become a universal signature of the Berkeley undergraduate experience
  • Catalyze curricular innovation at the department level to better weave discovery into the fabric of undergraduate education
  • Expand capacity in co-curricular programs by providing more opportunities in research, entrepreneurship, public service, and creative discovery
  • Develop a scaffolded arc for undergraduates from Berkeley Connect to Berkeley Discover that fosters a sense of belonging, builds a campus culture of student agency, and promotes authentic mentoring
  • Provide equity of student experience by ensuring that all students have access to Discovery, with active recruitment, and retention strategies for first generation and underrepresented students
  • Promote resilience and creative opportunities for Discovery during periods of remote learning

What is the proposal process?

 Interested departments – or clusters of departments - are invited to submit a pre-proposal by December 11th at 5pm to (and cc’d to Pre-proposals should address the specific questions below and should identify a project lead and a development team that, if selected, will be involved in full-proposal development during the spring term. Pre-proposals will be reviewed by a broad-based committee with a balance between senior leadership and faculty with disciplinary diversity. Teams with successful pre-proposals will be notified in January and will then be supported by Berkeley Discovery staff and campus partners to develop full proposals and detailed budgets via an iterative process. Full proposals will be due in late March 2021 and departmental awards will be announced in May 2021. Proposals that are not funded in the first round may be offered fundraising support for a development phase as additional funds are sought. 

What is the pre-proposal format?

Pre-proposals must include the following sections and must be three to five pages total (in 11 point Times New Roman font). Pre-proposals do not need to include a specific budget.

  1. Project Title: The Project Title should identify the participating department(s)

  2. Project Narrative: The Project Narrative should be comprised of direct answers to the following three questions, with primary emphasis placed on question C:

    1. What are currently the most effective undergraduate Discovery approaches in your department/unit?

    2. What are currently the biggest challenges for scaling Discovery and creating a coherent Discovery Arc in your department/unit?

    3. What key approaches and opportunities might your department/unit leverage to build a Discovery Arc that integrates discovery across the curriculum?

If  your department/unit has made prior investments, received prior awards, or developed specific campus or community partnerships for Discovery, feel free to discuss these efforts. However, the pre-proposal is primarily intended to offer an opportunity to articulate a broad vision and strategy for the department.

  1. Project Team: Pre-proposals should identify one project lead (a faculty member of the Academic Senate) and three to five additional team members that, if selected, will engage in full-proposal development in Spring 2021. In addition to the lead faculty member, project teams should include at least one staff member, two students (ideally one undergraduate and one graduate) and any additional faculty members. For departments applying as a cluster, teams should include representation from all departments and agreement on one project lead. Project teams should be convened with principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind. All development team members will receive a small stipend for participation in the Spring 2021 full-proposal development process.

  2. Letter of Support: All proposals should include a brief (one page maximum) letter of support from the Department Chair. 

Where can interested departments receive additional information?

We will host Town Hall meetings to address questions on November 6th from 12-1pm (event details and zoom link here) and November 16th from 4-5pm (event details and zoom link here). Further questions can be directed to Berkeley Discover Faculty Director Bree Rosenblum (