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Investing in Academic Excellence

Updated June 8, 2022

The UCF Strategic Investment Program invests in core academic activities to support President Alexander N. Cartwright’s vision that UCF will become the world’s leading public metropolitan research university.

This initiative will award up to $50 million during the current fiscal year to selected faculty and staff proposals that can elevate UCF’s academic excellence, student success and impact. The funds are a combination of $30 million in central funds and up to $20 million in matches from colleges and units.

The program results from a new strategic budgeting approach by Cartwright after he became president in 2020, reallocating some funds to give UCF a new avenue for enhancing academics and student success.

UCF invited proposals in three priority investment categories: the Jump Start Fund, Academic Excellence Fund, and Student Success Fund. Each fund involved specific goals, submission requirements, guidelines, deadlines and expectations for return on investment.

Each fund involved a review process with awards determined by the president and provost.

Jump Start Fund

($5 Million Non-Recurring + Match)

The Jump Start Fund invests in one-time projects or purchases to amplify UCF’s impact. Proposals could include requests for research infrastructure, facilities renovations under $2 million, equipment, temporary staff, etc. A total of $5 million of central university non-recurring funds will be invested.

Jump Start Proposals were evaluated based on impact to the university and return on investment, with the strongest proposals building on areas of excellence and past investment.

Jump Start Awards must be utilized (funds expensed or encumbered) by June 30, 2022.

The period for submissions closed on August 25, with 70 proposals submitted and more than 330 faculty and staff collaborating on the projects altogether. Funded projects were announced in UCF Today. Visit here for more about awarded projects.

Academic Excellence Fund

($7 Million Recurring + $21 Million Non-Recurring + Match)

The Academic Excellence Fund is meant to support big ideas and longer-term innovations that will have a substantial impact. Seven million in recurring central funds and $21 million in central non-recurring funds will be invested, plus unit matching funds.

The submission deadline closed on September 10, with 58 proposals submitted. Visit here for more about awarded projects.

Academic Excellence Fund Review Committee

  • Caroline ‘Carol’ Whitacre (Chair), Former Senior Vice President for Research, The Ohio State University 
  • Deborah Beidel, Trustee Chair and Executive Director, UCF RESTORES, University of Central Florida 
  • Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Klonoff, Vice President for Research and Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, University of Central Florida 
  • Cynthia Sagers, Vice President for Research, Arizona State University 
  • Sudipta Seal, Chair, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Central Florida 
  • Andrea Wesser-Brawner, Chief Innovation and Emerging Technologies Officer, Orange County, Florida 
  • Bob Wilhelm, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development, University of Nebraska Lincoln 

Student Success Fund

($3 Million Recurring)

The Student Success Fund invests in proposals to increase the retention, progression, graduation and career success of UCF students.

Proposals needed to clearly identify expected impact and return on investment for the university, describe expected outcomes, and provide a timeline for implementation. Proposals designed to improve 4-year graduation rates for FTIC students and 2-year graduation rates for full-time transfer students were highly encouraged.

The submission deadline closed on September 10. Visit here for more about awarded projects.

Student Success Fund Review Committee

  • Michael Johnson (Chair), Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Central Florida
  • Paige Borden, Chief Analytics Officer, University of Central Florida
  • Charles ‘Chuck’ Dziuban, Director, Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Central Florida
  • Mariebth Ehasz, Vice President Emerita, Student Development and Enrollment Services, University of Central Florida
  • Mike Kilbride, Executive Chief of Staff, University of Central Florida
  • Austin Wilson, Student Body Vice President, University of Central Florida

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is guidance provided about proposals during the submission period.

Strategic Investment Program

Include a high-level overview of the proposal. Use plain language, avoid jargon. The full proposal will be uploaded as a separate attachment.

No, however the application has requirements you must follow. The proposal should be no more than three pages (10-point type or larger) plus required information in the online form, including dollar amount requested, match provided, if any, and the individual(s) and unit(s) contributing to the proposal. The applications are submitted online through InfoReady. 

Yes. There is no limit as to the number of proposals that can be submitted per fund or in total.

No. Overhead is not charged for this program.

The indication of support is built into the online application. In the application field “List the Dean(s), Vice Provost(s), or Vice President(s) who may approve indicating support”, please specify who may approve the application overall and any matching funds (if provided). They will be contacted after submission to confirm/approve.  

No, but a dollar-to-dollar match would help strengthen a proposal.

No. Letters of support are not desired. If you have information on a match committed, collaborator’s endorsement, or department/college support you would like to include, explain it in the body of the proposal.

Questions about proposal content should be directed to Juan Lugo ( or 407-823-4533). Questions about the online proposal submission process should be directed to Joshua Roney ( or 407-882-0007).

Process, Criteria and Evaluation

Submitting a Proposal

Each of the three funds has an online submission page (see below). The application consists of a proposal of no more than three pages (10-point type or larger) plus required information in the online form, including dollar amount requested, match provided, if any, and the individual(s) and unit(s) contributing to the proposal. (In some cases, contributing members are defined by U.S. News & World Report or by NSF HERD.) Approval indicating support from the appropriate dean(s), vice provost(s), or vice president(s) is required. Proposals should be clear and concise, written in simple language that is understandable by a layperson. Jargon, detailed technical explanations, and citations are neither expected nor desired.

Criteria: Defining Impact and Return on Investment

Strong proposals will demonstrate a substantial impact to the university and define a return on investment that aligns with our goal of becoming the leading public metropolitan research university. Impact and return on investment will come in various forms, including but not limited to:

  • Improving existing areas of excellence to gain national reputation or improve ranking
  • Producing graduates in areas that are important for future regional economic development
  • Creating new or improving existing industrial partnerships
  • Increasing UCF’s ability to address some of society’s greatest challenges
  • Increasing contract and grant funding
  • Increasing philanthropic funding

Preference will be given to proposals that:

  • Include a concise and compelling explanation of the expected impact and return on investment
  • Describe existing strengths supporting the proposal, including total current recurring expenditures
  • Demonstrate how the interdisciplinary nature of the project will benefit more than one part of the university

Proposal Evaluation

The funds will have separate review committees appointed by the president and provost. Review committees may include academic leadership, administrative leadership, and industry partners. The committee for each fund, using these criteria and additional program-specific criteria below, will make recommendations to the president and provost for final approval.