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Office of Research Advising and Project Development

Office of Research Advising and Project Development

Research Development Support in the Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields

The OVCRI provides a range of resources for pre-tenure and tenured faculty, including:

  • Targeted information sessions for external fellowship and grant competitions
  • Meetings and programming in support of research/project design and development
  • Meetings to discuss research interests and strategize grant seeking plans
  • Editorial and research services for faculty working on fellowship or grant applications, including but not limited to: ACLS, Guggenheim, NEA, NEH, NSF-SBE, and residential (sited) fellowships 
  • First Book Writing Group for pre-tenured faculty
  • Next Project Group for faculty working on a second or subsequent project
  • Overview of campus-level and external resources for grant seeking
  • Suggestions for extending your campus visibility and finding colleagues with shared interests
  • Proposal writing resources

Research Advising and Project Development (RAPD) Team

M. Cynthia Oliver, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation - Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields, works closely with the advising team in support of faculty research/project development and grant seeking.

Andrew Greenlee (Urban & Regional Planning), Carol Symes (History, Medieval Studies, Theatre), and Shelley Weinberg (Philosophy) are affiliated with the OVCRI as RAPD faculty advisers.

Programmatic Support

Maria Gillombardo, Research Development Manager, is the primary point of contact for faculty members who are interested in our research/project development services and/or pursuing external funding opportunities.

Maria can also refer you to the appropriate pre-award coordinator at Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA). Coordinators provide assistance with the review of eligibility criteria, budget development, and requirements for proposal preparation and submission. 

Kelley Frazier, Office Manager, provides programmatic and administrative support.


Our services for faculty include:


These sessions provide an overview of specific external fellowship and grant competitions and the sponsoring agencies. Panelists are faculty members who recently received these fellowships and grants; they describe their experiences with the proposal writing and application process. Faculty members are invited to join us for any session that is of interest. If faculty cannot attend a session, we are always glad to provide materials. 

Please contact Maria Gillombardo for more information.


Faculty planning to apply for external funding are welcome to participate in proposal writing groups. Sessions are typically scheduled to begin several months in advance of competition deadlines, allowing for the opportunity to discuss several proposal drafts with colleagues. Writing groups for social science grant competitions are offered as requested, as these programs have varying deadlines.

Faculty who have participated in the writing groups have found them beneficial for moving their projects forward. The sessions are informal settings in which to comfortably get feedback from colleagues; regular meetings generate and spur draft revision as the application deadline approaches. 

Faculty are welcome to join us at any stage in the writing process. We are also glad to work with faculty individually; and we are always willing read/comment on drafts via email as well. 

Please contact Maria Gillombardo for more information.


These meetings give faculty the opportunity to discuss their project trajectory and strategize options for achieving their goals. We offer ongoing support, such as research into external funding possibilities, follow-up meetings, and/or reading drafts of application narratives. 

Please contact Maria Gillombardo for more information and/or to schedule a meeting. 


In addition to editing and commenting on drafts during writing group sessions, we are happy to read drafts of proposal narratives at any stage of the application process. Faculty do not need to attend information sessions or participate in writing groups to make use of these services. 

We also provide research pertaining to application criteria and guidelines, an essential component of grant seeking. We can also review RFPs, program solicitations, and application guidelines and offer suggestions about meeting those criteria in the proposal narrative.

Our services for faculty include, but are certainly not limited to, advising and support regarding:

ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) fellowships
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships
NEA fellowships and other programs (e.g., Art Works)
NEH fellowships and other programs (e.g., Public Scholar, Scholarly Editions and Translations)
NSF SBE Directorate (Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences) programs
Residential and other off-campus fellowships (e.g., research libraries, institutes of advanced study)


Pre-tenure faculty are welcome to join the First Book Writing Group at any phase of the writing process (e.g., early revision stages, preparing a proposal, making inquiries to publishers). Faculty do not need to be in their first year to participate. There are two sessions in the fall semester (November and December); the remaining three sessions are held in the spring.

Building on the methods and structure of the First Book Writing Group, the Your Next Project Group is for faculty who are working on their second, or subsequent, projects. The group offers an opportunity to connect with colleagues, conceptualize projects, and discuss research and work in progress. Faculty are most welcome to join at any point in their planning, research, development, and writing process; and to participate based on their interest in the session topics and as their schedules permit.

Faculty in the social sciences and related fields are welcome to attend proposal and article writing groups. As with the book groups, these sessions are an opportunity to discuss work in progress.


The following suggestions can assist you in finding colleagues who share your research interests—or with particular areas of expertise—who could be potential collaborators on campus initiatives as well as external funding opportunities. These suggestions might also provide some avenues for furthering and supporting your research:

  • Sign up for departmental/unit mailing lists
  • Join campus interdisciplinary reading groups (such as IPRH and the Unit for Criticism)
  • Offer to give a “brown bag” talk for campus audiences you want to reach
  • Look into the possibility of securing zero-time appointments in units that are related to your research interests
  • Check the News Bureau website for articles, press releases, and archives for grant/fellowship recipients

Proposal Writing Resources

The following articles and guidelines may be helpful in crafting a proposal narrative. While some of the articles are contest-specific, the advice given is relevant to proposal writers in all disciplines and fields.

In Memory of Professor Nancy Abelmann
Nancy Abelmann was Harry E. Preble Professor of Anthropology, Asian American Studies, and East Asian Languages and Cultures. In her role as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research for the Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields, Nancy’s boundless capacity for intellectual exchange and her generosity as a scholar and colleague profoundly energized and connected faculty across our campus. She passed away in January 2016.  

The services Nancy developed and provided through the OVCRI are unique to the University of Illinois. Nancy’s generosity and vision, as exemplified through her work in the OVCRI, are part of the legacy she leaves to our university.