Henry Luce Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education and Science Research

OVERVIEW: The Luce Foundation has several programs that qualify higher education institutions for funding. The majority of its higher education funding is humanities-related, but it also has a dedicated program for attracting women into STEM fields in higher education and supports some grants this area.

IP TAKE: The Luce Foundation’s humanities focus should not discourage STEM grantseekers. Women scholars, university STEM programs seeking to attract more women to the field, and Catholic postsecondary institutions with “strong science programs,” are a priority for this funder.

PROFILE: Created in 1936 by Time magazine co-founder Henry R. Luce, the Luce Foundation “seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.” Luce supports STEM education primarily through its Clare Booth Luce program.

For those seeking STEM funding in higher education, the Clare Booth Luce program provides the best opportunity for funding. According to the foundation, since the program began in 1989, “the Clare Boothe Luce Program (CBL) has become the single most significant source of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering.” Mrs. Luce, Henry Luce’s widow, wanted “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” in STEM. The program provides three levels of support:

  • Undergraduate scholarships and research awards: the scholarships are for the final two years of study and the research awards support specific research projects that involve working with faculty members in preparation for “graduate study.”

  • Graduate fellowships: support students in the first two years of a Ph.D. program “when funds for independent research are rarely available.”

  • Professorship support: provides “recognition and prestige” to raise an educator’s profile in the field as well as professional development funding that gives “flexibility and support rarely available to new faculty members.”

The CBL scholarships prioritize 13 pre-selected universities; however, additional institutions are sometimes invited to apply. All others should review the CBL application page for information about the inquiry and application process and deadlines. In terms of applying for funding, grantseekers should keep in mind that grants are awarded to educational institutions, not directly to individuals. Faculty awardees must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and students need to be U.S. citizens to be eligible. The social sciences and medical fields are not eligible for STEM funding, but the foundation encourages applications from “Catholic Institutions with strong science programs,” and “preference is given for support of women in the physical science and engineering fields in which women are the least well represented.”

Separately, some past grants support leadership programs for women in the STEM fields. To begin a Higher Education application, the foundation notes that “prospective grantees often begin the process with an email or phone call to the director of the appropriate program.” The program director may then request a letter of inquiry, which can be submitted year-round and will be reviewed before the foundation extends an invitation to submit a full proposal.

Beyond direct support for education and training programs, the foundation also funds an “Asian Studies and the Environment” initiative that “aspires to encourage innovative approaches to Asian studies teaching and research at the undergraduate level through the lens of the environment and sustainable development.” Applications for this program are by invitation only. Past grantees typically received either $50,000 or $400,000, though some have been significantly higher.

The bottom line: the Luce foundation prioritizes the arts, humanities, and international affairs— particularly in terms of relations between the United States and Asia, but there are still many possibilities for STEM funding—especially for institutions which focus on increasing the number of women in the field or projects with a connection to Asian studies. 


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