Shaw Innovation Fellows Program – Request for Proposals

Application Deadline: Friday, March 10, 2023 at 11:59pm EST

The Shaw Innovation Fellows Program seeks students at USM who are passionate about elevating their educational experience through research driven by innovation, entrepreneurship, and exploration. The Shaw Fellows Program was founded in 2021 with generous support from the Shaw family and will provide fellowship awards to enrolled USM Graduate and Upper-level Undergraduate Students each year. 

The selected Fellows will contribute to thought leadership through research and applied projects that demonstrate impact in solving human, environmental, economic, and societal problems of the 21st century and beyond. Fellows will propose a range of transformative projects some of which may require community-based or global partners with and for whom the project has impact, while also relating to a field of study.

Program Goals

  1. Pursue solutions to critical societal challenges by supporting high-impact transformative research and projects in a wide range of fields
  2. Develop thought leadership and disseminate new knowledge and ideas 
  3. Deliver a year-long interdisciplinary, cohort program to support professional development, community engagement and mentoring

Number of Fellowships, Award Amount, & Timing 

We will  award up to five fellowships. Each fellowship award will be for $5,000. 

COVID-19 Considerations 

We recognize there is much uncertainty in regards to the future of COVID-19 and that research and projects could be affected this upcoming year. We will follow local, state, and federal guidelines for health and safety and understand that projects may have to adjust to the realities of the pandemic. In the application, please assume that you will be able to conduct your project as planned but be prepared to adapt as realities necessitate. 

Relevant Research Topics 

Relevant research topics may include, but are not limited to (in alphabetical order, not by priority):

Business, climate change, communication, education, economics, environment, geology, health, natural resources, recreation, social justice and welfare, social science, sustainability, policy and regulatory compliance, and projects that cross or combine disciplines.

Who Should Apply 

Current USM graduate students and upper level undergraduates are encouraged to apply. All applicants should have an established working relationship with a faculty mentor.  Likewise, all applicants need to have taken class at USM for at least one semester.

The Shaw Fellows Program is seeking adventurous and entrepreneurial candidates who, in their applications and proposed projects demonstrate a spirit of innovation and exploration, critical thinking, and bold approaches to solving problems. In addition, Fellow Candidates will:

  • Be enrolled at USM to complete a graduate or undergraduate degree.  Maine Law and MBA students are not eligible for this fellowship program.
  • Be either full-time or part-time students.
  • Be enthusiastic and willing to join peer Fellows in a schedule of workshops and/or expert panels coordinated to support and strengthen the Fellows’ individual and peer cohort project experiences.  Workshops typically occur once per month with special events with other USM Student Research Fellows once per semester.
  • Identify and develop a working relationship with a Project Faculty Mentor (not necessarily the student’s academic advisor).  The identified mentor will need to complete the recommendation form.  
  • Engage with undergraduate Promise Scholars as a mentor and/or to involve a scholar to assist in the project as appropriate.
  • Present the resulting project/research in both digital form for USM records and at the public Shaw Innovation Fellows Symposium to be hosted at USM each year.

Applicants must be at least 18 years in age. 

Evaluation Of Proposals 

A committee consisting of representatives of USM faculty, the Shaw family, industry leaders and innovators will evaluate the proposals based on the criteria listed below. Applicants should expect that some reviewers will be from outside the discipline addressed by your project. 

Proposals will be evaluated based upon: 

1) 20% – Intellectual merit: advancing knowledge within and across disciplines; 

2) 20% – Opportunity for thought leadership and communication and connection to real world application;

3) 20% – Potential to impact societal challenges of the 21st century and beyond;

4) 20% – Qualifications of the applicant—evidence of skills and expertise to carry out the proposed work within the timeline as well as professional potential;

5)  20% – Recommendation by Project Faculty Mentor. 

Selection Evaluation Criteria

In evaluating the candidates’ proposed research and projects and selecting each year’s Fellows, the Shaw Fellows Advisory Board will adhere to the following criteria.

Successful proposals will highlight: 

  1. Importance and originality of the research project idea proposed. 
  2. Thoughtfulness of the research project’s goals and potential impact locally, or more globally.
  3. Clarity of the problem to be solved through the execution of the research/project.
  4. Ways in which the research project integrates and reflects innovation, entrepreneurship, and exploration.
  5. Ways in which the research project involves other USM community members and/or community-based partners and other institutions.
  6. Ability to successfully execute and complete the proposed research project on time.
  7. If resources are required, detailed project budgets should be provided, and limited support may be available.
  8. Provide evidence that the applicant is committed to connecting their research to applied applications and communicating it to varied audiences.

Note: It is recommended that Shaw Innovation Fellow Candidates explore and learn about the USM Promise Scholars, some of whom will be matched with Fellows to participate and learn from Fellows’ projects.

The Shaw Innovation Fellowship Program Coordinator will work closely with Student Fellows to develop and implement appropriate education, communication and public engagement activities as well as activities to translate research/projects into practical applications. Activities could include public talks, media interviews, informational exhibits, curricula development support, student mentoring and work with educators and partner organizations.

Expectations & Requirements of the Shaw Innovation Fellows

Budget Limit: Each proposal may request a limited budget up to $500 to support implementation of the project such as equipment, supplies, etc. 

Timeline: The fellowship period is one year (May through April).  Faculty mentorship will be the academic year (September through May).

Program Participation: Fellows will participate in a year-long series of collaborative programming to include featured speakers, professional development and networking events, community engagement and service, and mentoring opportunities. Fellows will present the resulting project/research in both digital form for USM records and at a public Shaw Innovation Fellows Symposium to be hosted at USM.

Mentorship: Mentorship to support the project is encouraged through collaboration with faculty. The Shaw Fellow program will also provide mentor connections through the Shaw Innovation Advisory Board. In addition to a faculty member, Shaw Fellows are encouraged to seek mentorship from leaders in business, organizations and agencies.

Fellows will also provide mentorship to undergraduate students in the USM Promise Scholars Program.

Office of Research Integrity: Applicants are responsible for ensuring compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws, regulations in research, and other covered activities before work begins. The USM Office of Research Integrity website provides additional information for applicants.

Reporting: Fellows will be required to present their research/project at the Shaw Symposium and will also submit a digital report for USM records. The final report should also include a brief overview of outreach and communication activities as well as measured impacts. 

Deadlines: March 10, 2023 at 11:59pm EST for student applicants. Recommendations from Faculty Mentors must be submitted by March 17, 2023 at 11:59pm EST. Visit the Office of Graduate Studies website here ( for links to the student and faculty google forms.

How To Apply: Proposals will be accepted through the Office of Graduate Studies website here. Assistance with the application will take place via an information webinar as well as a workshop. Check invitational email messages for additional information.

Notification of Awards: We will award up to five fellowships for the 2023-2024 academic year.  Announcements are planned to made during Thinking Matters Research Symposium on Friday, April 21, 2023.