Exploratory Mini-Grants

Two students examine a cactus during the problems to possibilities course.


Exploratory mini-grants provide funding for students to follow their curiosity where it leads and take the sort of intellectual risks that lead to meaningful discovery and innovation. 


It all starts with your curiosity. 

Franke Honors students are curious by nature, and we know that, if nurtured, that curiosity can lead to incredible things: scientific breakthroughs, profound artworks, policy solutions, business ventures—the sky is the limit. Except it isn't, because we know some of you are following that curiosity right into outer space. 

Any Franke Honors student can apply for an exploratory mini-grant, and these mini-grants can fund projects inside or outside of your primary major. Studying biochemistry but have an amazing idea for a children's book? Get a grant to offset the cost of writing, publishing, and promoting it. Working toward a degree in education and have a great idea for an app? An exploratory mini-grant can provide the resources you need to get your idea off the ground. 

We are grateful to Dr. John L. Compton for establishing the Compton Fund for Exploration. His generosity provides the funding for these grants, but more importantly, allows students to realize their curiosity in new ways. 

Grant Options

Individual mini-grant: $2,500–5,000

Individuals can apply for project funding, with the option to apply for continued funding for the length of the project. 

Team mini-grant: $5,000–10,000

Teams of 2-5 Franke Honors students can apply for project funding, with the option to apply for continued funding for the length of the project. To apply, a single team lead will need to fill out the application and provide names and student id numbers for each student on the team. 

How to Apply

The application for Spring 2024 funding is now open! Deadline to apply is November 8, 2023.


Applicants will need to submit: 

Statement of Proposed Research | 750 - 1,000 words

This statement should be written in clear, simple language that can be understood by a broad, multi-disciplinary committee. Members of the selection committee are likely not trained in your specialized field of study. If you are working on a project that is closely related to your research mentor's topic of study, you will need to distinguish your line of study from their work.

  • Proposals should include:  

    • an issue or question to be investigated
    • brief background or context surrounding the issue or question
    • a description of how you will investigate your issue or question (methods, etc.)
    • a plan and timeline for completing the proposed project
    • an explanation of the project's significance


Faculty Support Letter | 250 word minimum

This letter from a faculty mentor should discuss the project's viability, importance, and a description of how the faculty member will support/mentor the student if funding is awarded.

Exploratory Mini-Grants Application Preview        Exploratory Mini-Grants Application Evaluation Rubric

There are three application cycles every year. 

  • Fall (process takes place in spring) 

  • Spring (process takes place during the fall) 

  • Summer (Process takes place in spring) 

Students who have already received funding through the an exploratory mini-grant will have the option to complete a simplified reapplication process for continuing projects that require additional funds. 

Info Sessions

Want to learn more about exploratory mini-grants and make sure your application is as strong as it can be? Attend an info session! Not able to attend? You can view the presentation on Quest and Exploratory Mini-grants here

  • Thurs, Sept 21: virtual | 6:00 - 7:00pm | REGISTER 
  • Tues, Sept 26: in-person | Honors Village Room 1067 |  2:00 - 3:00pm | REGISTER 
  • Tues, Oct 3: virtual | 12:00 - 1:00 pm | REGISTER 
  • Wed, Oct 11: Research Opportunities Kick Off | Honors Village 1067/1068 | 5:00 - 6:30pm | REGISTER
    • This event is more than just an info session—you can expect food, faculty presentations, and more!
  • Wed, Oct 18: virtual | 3:30 - 4:30pm | REGISTER
  • Fri, Oct 27: virtual | 2:30 - 3:30pm | REGISTER
  • Wed, Nov 1: in-person | Honors Village Room 1068 | 4:00 - 5:00pm | REGISTER

Questions? Contact Tori Nardinelli, Assistant Director of Research, Creative Expression, and Professional Initiatives.


Funds can be used for a variety of purposes. You can request funds to pay yourself a research stipend, or funds can be used to pay for equipment, software, training, travel, conferences, etc. Funds will be awarded directly to students based on their approved budget.

Proposals will be submitted and evaluated the semester preceding the funding disbursement. The proposal will include a budget for the project that identifies uses for the funds requested. If awarded, students will need to track funds spent and submit a progress report towards the end of the funded semester explaining how the funds were used. If a student spends less than their funded total per those progress reports, they will need to return the unspent funds if their project is ending that cycle. If their project is continuing to the next semester, the subsequent funding request will be lesser the amount that was not spent previously.

If it looks like you are going to run out of funds before you finish your project, please talk with Tori Nardinelli as soon as possible and we can explore options available to you.

If you are awarded a mini-grant, you are highly encouraged to enroll in coursework for the project. This will contribute to your honors unit requirement. We can enroll you in HNRS 392 (honors directed research units) or HNRS 399 (honors independent study) through the Franke Honors College, or there may be pathways to earn honors directed research or independent study through your home department where appropriate. Tori Nardinelli will help awardees explore appropriate enrollment options.

We appreciate your consideration of mentoring our incredible Franke Honors students! The hope behind these mini-grants is to increase access and reduce barriers to hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that allow students to explore their passions and interests. Every student will have different goals for these experiences, and we know that every mentor also has different expertise, mentoring talents, and time to offer. We encourage you to talk with students about these aspects and make sure there is a good fit between their ideas and what you can offer.

At minimum, a faculty mentor will need to assist students with the application process (including drafting a statement of proposed research and submitting a budget using a provided template). The faculty mentor will also be required to submit a letter of support detailing the importance of the student’s project, the viability of the proposal, and describing the specific support the faculty mentor will provide to the student to achieve the project’s goals. If awarded, the faculty mentor will be responsible for providing the support outlined in their letter of support, submitting grades if the student enrolls in units for the project, and assisting the student in their progress reports each semester (including submitting a faculty progress report). Beyond those requirements, the involvement of the mentor will be negotiated with the student directly and described in the application materials.

Projects can span a single semester to multiple semesters. For projects expected to happen over the course multiple semesters, students will submit a budget for the total projected funding request for the experience and a request for the first semester of the project. Renewals will require a progress report at the end of each semester and an updated budget for the subsequent semester of work. These materials will be reviewed by Franke Honors College staff to determine if the next installment will be awarded.