Magic Grants for Innovation


The Magic Project provides innovation grants ranging from $5,000 to $75,000 to Princeton faculty members, thanks to the generosity of Lynn Shostack, in memory of her husband, David A. Gardner ’69. 

Magic grants are intended to be the initiating spark for a project and to be its primary support.

The goal is to support ideas that break new ground intellectually and pedagogically and have the potential to change how the humanities are conceived and taught. The committee is attentive to interdisciplinary initiatives as well as to intellectual “nooks and crannies” that might not be well known to students and colleagues but are essential to the richness of the Princeton experience. In this context, the word “magic” is used metaphorically to signal the possibility of making new things happen.

The Council strongly supports enrichment of Princeton pedagogy.  For the coming 2019-20 academic year, the Council renews and expands its commitment to funding “breakthrough” courses and workshops that include experiential/field components and move outside the traditional classroom setting. Examples include Princeton-based activities, such as integrated “lab” participation (“BattleLab” and “Alchemy” courses); visits to archives or historical/cultural sites, whether domestic or international, or Wintersession 2021 academic activities. Activities may be a few days, over a break, or several weeks in length.  We aim to deepen and internationalize learning across the humanities curriculum, with a focus on interdisciplinary or cross-divisional curricular innovation.

Read about the Magic Grants awarded for the current academic year, 2018-19.

Magic grants for 2019-20 will be awarded for first-time projects to be carried out in the coming academic year (starting in the summer of 2019 and ending no later than the summer of 2020). For projects requiring advance preparation, multiple components, or specific timing, funds can be requested for a two- or three-year period. 

Magic grants do not support teaching salary, with the exception of  $7500 summer stipends to assistant, associate, and full professors from different departments/disciplines who propose to develop a new team-taught course of broad interdisciplinary interest.  (See “Team Teaching Grants in Humanistic Studies.“)

Grants are intended to reflect one or more facets of the Project’s mission:

  • to encourage unusual, even surprising, intellectual endeavors that depart from the status quo and have the potential to reshape a body of knowledge;
  • to foster interdisciplinary collaborations and team-teaching across fields;
  • to enlarge the curriculum in ways that encourage both faculty and students to adopt new modes of thought that transcend traditional academic boundaries;
  • to expose students to educational riches that might not otherwise be visible or available to them because of class size restrictions, budgetary limits, or other obstacles; and
  • to encourage humanities faculty to collaborate with a colleague in science and engineering on a joint project.


Who is eligible to apply:

Regular Princeton faculty (senior lecturers; assistant, associate, full professors) may apply. Other faculty, research, and administrative members of the University may be co-proposers.

Lecturers, research scholars, and postdoctoral fellows on continuing appointments are also eligible to propose projects, under the following conditions:

  • the funds will be used to support pedagogical initiatives (e.g., new courses; student activity/travel in an educational context; innovative teaching materials/installations);
  • the request is accompanied by an endorsement from the department chair; and
  • for course-related activities, the department confirms that the course would be offered and a teaching salary provided (Magic grants do not support teaching salary).
Project Eligibility Checklist:
  • A new, first-time endeavor: Magic grants are intended to be the initiating spark for a project and to be its primary support. They typically do not sustain established programs, match grants from other units, or “top up” other funding sources.
  • Carried out in the coming academic year, 2019-20: Grants will be awarded in July 2019. Projects should begin no earlier than summer of 2019 and must be carried out in academic year 2019-20, concluding no later than August 2020, except in the case of multi-year projects (which require a rationale; see above). 
  • A re-conception of the humanities: whether by encouraging new and emerging cross-disciplinary endeavors; building new bridges from the humanities to the creative arts, sciences, and social sciences; or enabling new initiatives in global and public humanities.
  • Led by Princeton faculty and of benefit to the Princeton University community: Magic grants do not support projects administered by or housed in organizations other than Princeton University.
  • Not clearly eligible for established, traditional sources of University funding.
How to Apply

Before you submit a project proposal, you are encouraged to review the guidelines below and contact Kathleen Crown, Executive Director of the Humanities Council, for guidance on eligibility criteria, necessary components of the proposal, and preliminary feedback on an initial draft.

Online Application No Longer Available

The online application form will require the following documents as attachments:

1. A brief, compelling abstract of the proposal (up to 200 words), clearly stating who is involved, what the funds will be used for, and where, when, and how it will be carried out. It should further convey what makes the project innovative and potentially important. The abstract should be able to stand on its own as an overview of the project.

2. A detailed proposal for the full project, which must include the following:

  • project title
  • name(s) of proposer(s)
  • principal departments involved
  • start and end dates, schedule of when all work will be done
  • innovative nature of the project in relation to the humanities
  • project’s benefit to Princeton University faculty and students
  • names of Princeton faculty and students who will be involved
  • intended non-university participants, with names and affiliations if known
  • a detailed budget (travel, lodging, food, materials) for the full project, indicating amounts contributed by, or solicited from, other offices on campus, particularly the host department

3. Proposals involving new courses or undergraduate group travel requires a department chair agreement to support logistics.  You may attach that letter/email to the application form or have it sent directly to Kathleen Crown.

Proposals under serious consideration may be reviewed by faculty experts in the relevant fields, in consultation with the Council of Science and Technology, the Center for Digital Humanities, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Dean of Research, the Dean of the College, and other campus offices.

Special Note: The Council on Science and Technology (CST) is partnering with the Humanities Council on a joint call for proposals.  We seek to support members of the STEM and Humanities faculty in connecting across the STEM and Humanities divisions. For more information, please contact Paul Durst, Assistant Director, STEM Education, CST, or Kathleen Crown (, executive director of the Humanities Council. Proposal deadline for this call only is January 18, 2019. You are strongly encouraged to contact Paul Durst, as soon as possible, to discuss potential proposal ideas, opportunities, and questions.

Other sources for humanities innovation funding include the Dean for Research Innovation Funds and  The 250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education.

Deadlines and Grant Cycles

  • October 22, 2018: Round one deadline
  • December 2018: Applicants will be notified of decisions for round one.
  • March 4, 2019: Round two deadline
  • May 2019: Applicants will be notified of decisions for round two.
  • July 2019: Funds will be transferred after the start of the 2018 fiscal year (begins July 1, 2018).
  • May 15, 2020: Grantees must submit final reports on completed projects using an online form. Links will be provided, along with reminders from the Council.
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