open house demonstrates how to compose a successful FI grant application

On Friday, November 10th, The Futures Initiative opened its doors to graduate students across disciplines for our Fall 2023 Open House. The event, which predominantly sought to introduce interested students to the three major grants that FI gives out yearly, also featured food, drink, good conversation, and a warm sense of community. 

FI Executive Director, Adashima Oyo, welcomes guests to FI Open House

The session began with an introduction to FI and the work that we do by Executive Director, Adashima Oyo. Though many participants were already familiar with the Futures Initiative, some were unfamiliar about FI’s involvement in various programs such as the CUNY Peer Leaders, HASTAC, and more. 

The event continued with a panel hosted by FI Assistant Director, Roderick Hurley, and featured several previous grant winners, including current FI Fellow-in-Residence, Silvia Rivera Alfaro and HASTAC Scholars Co-Director, Coline Chevrin. Having several years of grant-reviewing experience, Coline kicked off the panel with her advice for writing a compelling grant application. She advised participants to not wait until the last minute to write their responses, but that if it was absolutely unavoidable, to go the extra mile in their responses. “If you can sit down and write just one sentence, you can write 4 more!” she emphasized, while several other panelists nodded in agreement. She expanded that single sentence responses seemed unserious and would not be able to robustly answer the question in what was already a short application. Adashima Oyo, as well as several others, also emphasized the importance of “selling yourself”- truthfully highlighting your accomplishments and skills while fighting the urge to be modest. To save space and avoid including superfluous information, the panelists urged participants to emphasize accomplishments and skills that were relevant to the proposed project and grant first.

The panelists then took several questions, including a very insightful one from a member of the audience who wanted tips for avoiding being redundant in multiple questions, while still keeping their project and project details at the focus of the application. “The question asking you to describe your research project in 150 words is where your project has to shine. The next question deals with the importance of the research – that’s where you have to talk about the impact of your work to yourself and to others,” Coline continued. Other panelists agreed that the wording of each question on the application required a totally different response so that responding with a project description for each question would be inappropriate. “It’s a short application: my research matters, I matter, that’s it” Coline concluded.

Some major tips and takeaways from the panel include:

  1. Make sure your project is aligned with the grant that you are applying for
  2. Make sure your responses actually answer the question in a concise, but detailed way
  3. Avoid using aids like ChatGPT to write your responses – no one and nothing knows yourself and your research as well as you do 
  4. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself! Be direct with your accomplishments and skills as they pertain to your project and the grant you’re applying for
  5. Work with a partner or have a friend, colleague, or PI read it over before submission
  6. The application is short, so make sure you include all important and relevant details 

FI Grants panel discusses tips and tricks for writing a stellar FI grant application (from L to R: Rod Hurley, Annalisa Myer, Silvia Rivera Alfaro, Adashima Oyo, Coline Chevrin, Inma Zanoguera).  

Following the panel and Q&A session, Rod Hurley went through the three grant types available this year before wrapping up the event with casual questions, conversation, and mingling. 

The Dr. Louise Lennihan Arts & Sciences Grant is a $500 award for “doctoral students at the Graduate Center to support interdisciplinary research related to the intersections of the humanities, arts, science, and technology.” 

The Paul C. Notari Environmental Studies Grant is also a $500 award for “doctoral students at the Graduate CEnter who are working in any area relevant to scientific, social, cultural, legal, or policy issues in relation to environmental studies, climate change, renewable energy, pollution control and allied areas.”

The Equity and Social Justice Grant is the final of the 3 $500 grants awarded by FI to “master’s students at the Graduate Center to support interdisciplinary research related to equity, health, and learning for CUNY students.” 

For more information on the three grants awarded by the Futures Initiative and to apply, click here. The grant application deadline is December 1st. 


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309