F.R.E.S.S.H. | Fostering Research Expansion in the Social Sciences & Humanities

Helping scholars in the arts, social sciences, and humanities secure research funding
Group photo of first FRESSH class

FRESSH, an acronym for Fostering Research Expansion in the Social Sciences and Humanities, is a cohort of scholars that meets bimonthly throughout the school year, having just wrapped up its inaugural year at the University of Kansas.

Equal parts workshop, support group, and networking circle, the program brings together faculty in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (or the College) to explore research funding opportunities and sharpen grant writing skills.

The idea was conceived three years ago at the University of New Mexico, while Arash Mafi was interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences there. When he accepted the job as executive dean of KU’s College in 2023, one of his first initiatives was to set up something similar here.

“FRESSH empowers our faculty to take control of securing vital resources for their research,” Mafi said. “Witnessing our innovative researchers come together, sharing insights, and supporting each other in the grant writing process has been truly uplifting.”

To get the program up and running at KU, Mafi enlisted the help of Associate Dean Nick Syrett, and put Syrett in touch with his New Mexico colleagues. Soon thereafter, the call went out to College faculty seeking participants for the inaugural class, with 21 faculty members across 17 disciplines signing up.

Syrett said the primary goal of the program is to demystify the process of applying for external grants and fellowships for social scientists and humanists. Toward that end, the group hears from speakers from on and off campus, whether that’s fellow colleagues sharing their tips for how they successfully received grants, or a review agent from the National Science Foundation explaining the review process in detail. Beyond the guest lectures, they also break off into smaller groups and workshop each other’s proposals. All participants are expected to submit one grant or fellowship application within 18 months of starting the program. The hope, Syrett said, is that it kickstarts a career of grant or fellowship success, which in turn will make for lots of great research and enhance the research profile of KU. 

“Even if all participants don’t win their grants or fellowships on the first time out, we know that this is a long game that sometimes requires multiple years of submissions,” Syrett said. “But we can’t win if we don’t first try!”

Sofia Vera, an assistant professor of political science, was a member of that inaugural class and is currently putting together an NSF grant proposal for her research on violence and police reform in Latin America. She said FRESSH was a godsend, not only because it taught her a great deal about the application process, but because it also introduced her to amazing colleagues across campus and reminded her that she wasn’t alone in this process.

“I would highly recommend it for any faculty member who is researching and planning to submit an external research proposal, especially if you are young faculty,” Vera said. “It gives you the structure to develop your proposal and gives you connections, making the process of submitting a proposal much more enjoyable.”

It will take some time before this first FRESSH class learns if its members have been successful at applying for their grants and fellowships. Still, by all accounts, the program is already a huge success.

“It’s just too early—some participants’ deadlines are a ways out yet,” Syrett said. “I think we’ll all feel it’s been successful if participants know more about resources on campus and make connections with fellow researchers in the group.”

The call for Year Two participants will be released soon and any College faculty member interested in participating is strongly encouraged to apply.

“If you know that external funding or time away from teaching and service will help you with your research, and you want to apply for either of those things, this is the program for you,” Syrett said.    


  • Gain a better understanding of resources for funding and grant development on campus.
  • Learn more about how their research can benefit from external funding.
  • Learn about the options for external funding in their field.
  • Develop the skills to submit a proposal for external funding.
  • Provide critique to others and respond to critiques of their own work.
  • Develop connections with colleagues on campus.
  • Attend workshops and activities, most of which will be in person, some on Zoom. They will take place on Friday mornings throughout the 2024-25 academic year.
  • Complete assignments, consisting of drafts of applications and portions thereof.
  • Participate in workshops, including providing feedback on peers’ proposals and other writing.
  • Learn about and utilize KU’s research support systems and offices.
  • Adhere to KU’s research guidelines.
  • Submit a research proposal to an approved foundation, federal agency, or non-KU university-based fellowship program during the period from 2024-2026 (within approximately eighteen months of beginning the FRESSH program, i.e., by March of 2026).
  • Complete program evaluations and provide feedback on the FRESSH program.
  • If participants are awarded a fellowship or grant, they may be asked to present at, or serve as mentor to, a future session of FRESSH.
  • Any College faculty member—including postdoctoral fellows with supervisor approval—who can meet the expectations above.
  • Faculty must be eligible to take leave (in case of fellowship) or serve as PI (in case of grant).
  • All ranks.
  • Applicants need not have experience applying for external funding, though some experience is not disqualifying.
  • Although we recognize that teams and partners do apply for external funding, and we hope that participants will make important connections in the program, we are requesting that scholars apply to this program as individuals.
  • Applicants must have the support of their department chairs; we will check with chairs of all applicants.
  • Please submit your CV and a statement of no more than two pages, single-spaced, documenting your research and publication record, an idea of the project for which you would like to seek outside funding, and some sense of why you wish to participate in the project.
  • Please submit to fressh@ku.edu by August 19, 2024.
  • Competitive applications will demonstrate a research vision, interest in external funding, some sense of the agencies/foundations to which they would like to apply, and a commitment to meeting the program expectations.
  • Preference will be given to those who applied last year and were not selected.

We understand that this program, while it is intended to benefit participants’ research program, will also entail considerable time and effort. To that end, each participant will receive $3,000 in research funding contingent on program attendance, participation, and the submission of one major grant or fellowship application within eighteen months of beginning the program. The funding will be distributed in two rounds: $1,000 upon completion of the training program and $2,000 upon the submission of a grant proposal. If participants do not meet the expectations listed below, they will not receive full funding.

To receive the first $1,000, participants are expected to:

  1. Attend at least 80% of the formal workshops and activities.
  2. Participate constructively in discussions and activities.
  3. Complete all assignments in the program, including meeting with funding officers, draft proposals, and proposal development milestones.

To receive the additional $2,000, participants are expected to:

  1. Complete steps 1, 2, and 3.  
  2. Submit an approved external funding proposal through KU within approximately eighteen months of the start of the FRESSH program or as close to that deadline as possible, depending on the grant/fellowship.
  3. Complete program evaluation and provide feedback for future programs.

Please communicate with program officers (syrett@ku.edu or fressh@ku.edu) about any circumstances that might prevent you from participating in all parts of the program.

August 1, 2024, 2 p.m.

Zoom info session:


Password: 087821

August 19, 2024Application deadline
Week of September 2Cohort announced
Week of September 13, 9 a.m.First session
September 13, 2024 - April 30, 2025Duration of program
March 2026Deadline for grant submission

Please email fressh@ku.edu with any questions.  

All details here: https://collegedean.ku.edu/fressh