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Putting Together a Stand-Out Proposal

When it comes time to write a curriculum development grant proposal for the PCI Foundation, every professor wants to create a document that leads to an easy “yes.” The question is how do you make it happen? Generally speaking - both content and style matter, although content always trumps style. After sitting through many of these proposal debates, I have put together a few suggestions to help create a proposal that will be read and will lead to a “yes.” 

Guaranteed Questions I know that these questions will always be asked during a review of a proposal and should therefore be addressed in every proposal:

  • Is prestressed currently taught at the university?

  • How does this go beyond a regular semester-long typical prestressed course?

  • What is the budget, and what is the thought process behind the budget (are they just asking for the maximum because it is the maximum?)

  • Is there any integration with other departments in the university?

  • What type of local community engagement is there?

  • How many students will this program reach?

  • Is there local support for the program? (not only in-kind support, but does the local industry also support the work of the PCI Foundation?)

  • Are these partners the right partners? 

  • Are we missing anyone?

  • Who are the students?

  • Where are they from and where do they work once they finish with the program?

  • What kind of support does the program have from the university? 

Style Also Matters Other suggestions that I always make when it comes to style:

  • Be as visual as possible. If you can use a Venn diagram, photo or pie chart to convey part of your story, do it.  

  • Keep the proposal to 5-6 pages max (not including addendum)

  • Front load all the curricular and programming ideas at the front of the proposal

  • Make a precise ask. State up front in the simplest language exactly what you are proposing.

  • Again, load this AT THE FRONT of the proposal and make it simple.

  • When deciding between CVs, always use the shorter one. 

Other Reminders Some other things to keep in mind while writing a PCI Foundation proposal:

  • The PCI Foundation focuses on curriculum development. We are not in the business of research, which is handled by the PCI Research & Development Committee.

  • Because we focus on curriculum, some of the chief concerns will be learning outcomes for students, participation in PCI Foundation activities such as the poster sessions, professors’ seminar, or PCI Convention, and deliverables such as reports, student projects and photos. 

Support Letters A good support letter offers general well wishes and intent, and yet a support letter can convey so much more. A great support letter offers specifics:

  • Identify the players - who will be involved with the program, what will they do and how much time will they spend, let us know your point of contact

  • Pinpoint the resources you plan to use to support the program

  • Spell out in-kind support you will provide - materials, books, literature, bed time, etc.

  • Provide information on previous and future support of the PCI Foundation if appropriate

  • Share how the program will support your local needs - will you hire graduates? Will they work for consultants who design with your products locally? What does it mean to you? 

The easiest way to do all of these things is to work with your Trustee Liaison and local partner to make sure that all the questions are answered and that you format the proposal in a way that makes it easy to read and understand.

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