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Eligibility, Expectations, & Proposal



The program supports up to eight faculty members per year for the 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 academic years. Awards in the amount of $10,000 will support each faculty participant.* This funding may be designated for course-related expenses (e.g. student support, computer hardware and software, travel), as a course buy-out, as a research fund (non‐taxable), as a summer wage payment (taxable), or as a combination of these.

Any full‐time faculty member (tenured, tenure‐track, or non‐tenure‐track) from any academic rank and from any UVa STEM discipline may apply to Nucleus. For program purposes, eligible STEM disciplines include Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, Statistics and all engineering disciplines (Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Engineering and Society, Materials Science & Engineering, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, and Systems & Information Engineering). Previous recipients of Nucleus awards are not eligible unless part of a departmental team (see below).

To promote more significant and sustained change in STEM education, the 2015 Nucleus program especially seeks proposals from faculty teams within departments.  Special considerations when applying as a team include:

  • Departmental teams should be composed of 4 or more faculty members who are directly responsible for the courses and associated redesigns.
  • Departmental teams should submit a single proposal outlining the redesign of multiple courses within their curricula.  These courses should be related either by academic year (e.g. all 2nd-year courses) or through sequence (e.g. 1st four semesters of introductory chemistry). Clear connections between the courses must be demonstrated. Preference is given to teams with a focus on introductory level courses.
  • Team members will attend the CDI together and then participate in the year-long learning community.
  • Each individual faculty member will receive an award of $10,000, and the chair of the department in which the courses will be offered will receive $10,000 in discretionary funding to help support this change initiative.

*Award funds become available in August and following successful completion of the Course Design Institute (e.g. submitting to the CTE a final or near-final syllabus for the redesigned course).  All funds must be spent by the end of the award year.


All Nucleus participants, both individual and departmental teams, are expected to…

  • apply to and attend the Center for Teaching Excellence’s five-day Course Design Institute (June 1-5, 2015) where they will learn to 1) develop more robust, epistemologically-based learning objectives, 2) implement STEM-specific pedagogies such as Peer Instruction, Problem-Based Learning, Team-Based Learning, Process-Oriented Group Inquiry Learning, Peer-Led Team Learning Pedagogies, 3) identify common barriers that students have when learning disciplinary concepts and develop appropriate learning activities to overcome these, and 4) create a variety of learning-centered assessments. Participants are required to pay for CDI (approximately $975) using their annual Education Benefit or program award.
  • teach their course in the fall or spring semester of the award year and, minimally, the next two consecutive iterations of the course;
  • develop a continuous improvement plan and systematically assess student learning in their course;
  • participate in an on-going science learning community that begins just before the CDI and meets up to every three weeks during the summer and academic year;
  • participate in reciprocal peer observations and follow-up discussions with other participants at least twice during the first semester their course is taught;
  • participate in on-going program assessment of their course and students’ learning, to include, for example, in-class observations (prior to beginning Nucleus and while in the program), surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups;
  • produce a portfolio so that their course materials are available to the CTE and home department;
  • mentor for one semester any colleague who takes on future iterations of the course.


Proposals to participate in Nucleus must include the following materials, emailed to Michael Palmer ( as described below. To receive full consideration for Nucleus for the 2015-16 academic year, apply by the extended deadline: Friday, March 27, 2015.

Please create a single PDF file containing the following three sections. Label the file as such: proposer’s_last_name-OVERVIEW. Email the current course syllabus/syllabi as a  separate attachment, labeled as proposer’s_last_name-SYLLABUS”.

  1. a cover letter (1 page maximum; 5 page maximum for departmental teams) to include proposer’s name, department, title and course number of the course to be redesigned, course demographics (e.g. typical academic level of students, racial or gender make-up, majors/non-majors); a brief discussion of your initial ideas for the redesign, including general ideas for implementing evidence-based practices (see, for example, Evidence for the Efficacy of Student-active Learning Pedagogies-Froyd). Please do NOT include detailed redesign plans in your proposal because a systematic redesign will occur during CDI;
  2. a budget summary (1 page maximum; 3 page maximum for departmental teams) detailing how the $10,000 award will be spent;
  3. a letter of support from your departmental chair AND a separate letter from the department’s undergraduate curriculum committee or Director of Undergraduate Studies. These letters should indicate strong departmental commitment to the faculty member’s participation in Nucleus, to the teacher’s intentions of redesigning the proposed course, and to sustaining the redesigned course after the program year. The letter should also detail the department’s plan for and commitment to mentoring in new instructors into the redesigned course. In other words, the strongest proposals will demonstrate the departments’ commitment to initiating, supporting, sustaining, and financing the change initiatives proposed by the instructor(s).
  4. the current course syllabus/syllabi, which should include course descriptions, learning objectives, and general means of assessment.

Questions? Email or call Michael Palmer (; 434-982-2784).