February Flash Funding Continues!

We received 50 proposals requesting $353,000 in funding in the January Flash Funding cycle. Thank you, UVA for your innovative ideas and commitment to further enhance the University!

If you missed January, our February Flash funding proposal form is open. Flash grants are capped at $10,000 and focus on short-term projects or immediate use opportunities, often for student organizations. Proposals must be submitted no later than February 29, with decisions announced on March 15.

For additional information, please visit our Grant Seekers page or contact Amy Bonner at abonner@virginia.edu to discuss your idea and potential funding.

An Email Makes a Difference

Meghan Puglia, Assistant Professor of Neurology, received a Trust grant for the Transformative Autism Biomarker Research Initiative, studying babies in the NICU to detect early indicators of autism. A few years later, Zack Landsman, Systems Engineering PhD student, received a Trust grant for his work to recycle plastic waste and electronic equipment, creating them into new materials.

Colorful shredded plastic from recycled pipette tips.

Zack and Meghan were previous collaborators on another project, so when UVA Today featured Zack’s work to add recycling capabilities to UVA and Charlottesville, Meghan contacted him with a plastic waste “gold mine”.

“Meghan has been one of my favorite collaborators as she shows great passion for her work. The plastic recycling collaboration began after one email from Meghan and has jumpstarted all of our work! This story is a perfect example of waste stream identification helping to create an entire process. Our sights are currently set on blue wrap, a polypropylene hospital staple that, accounts for an estimated 19% of all operating room waste by weight,” shares Zack.

Many labs produce a large amount of discarded pipette tips that aren’t often recycled and end up in a landfill.  “They are a perfect starter item, all the same plastic, well labeled, require no cleaning (sticker removal on some), and come in cool colors” shares Zack.

Since Zack’s team began collection, they have worked to refine their recycling process. They sort by color, type, and size, then shred the plastics and re-sort based on manufacturing needs.

Zack has formed a partnership with the School of Architecture to supply them with recycled plastics and is working with UVA Sustainability and Green Labs to increase contributions from labs across Grounds.

For more information or to get involved with either project, visit junklabz.com or puglialab.org.

Updates in a Flash

In 2023, the Trust awarded $96,350 to fourteen flash grant projects, across three funding cycles. Based on the short timelines of flash projects, many are complete, but a few are in the midst of their work. We’re excited to share updates from three:

Behavioral Sciences Across Grounds received $9,240 to help establish a gathering of behavioral scientists across the University, providing an opportunity for improved collaborations, better training, engaging in strategic planning, and a greater sense of community. The first stage of the project was so well received that the team divided the conference into two stages. The first was held in 2023, and the second will take place in early 2024. “Feedback has been extremely positive, and we feel like this event has really brought together this community and built strong bonds. We are in a strong position to consider ways to build bridges to bring in external funding,” shared project lead, Gabrielle Adams.

Talking Trees was awarded $1,546 to purchase a print press, creating a folio of wood prints to assemble a visual catalogue of the different species of trees from across Grounds. An article published in LUNCH, the Architecture school’s student-run publication, details some of the tree cookie prints and their procurement, as well as the project collaboration with UVA Sawmilling. A small edition of prints have been shared with Sawmilling for larger distribution.

Tree cookie print example from Talking Trees grant.

{in}Visible Magazine received $3,170 to help launch the first literary publication at UVA dedicated to the Asian Pacific Islander South Asian American (APISAA) community on Grounds, creating a space for exploring and sharing unique experiences through writing and art. Since launching they have published four issues and are working on the next to release in spring 2024.

“We’ve been surprised by the amount of interest in joining our staff; we’re managing more writers and artists than we ever have before, and more than we’ve expected,” shared Wendy Gao, Magazine Editor-in-Chief. “We’ve also applied for CIO status!”

We are excited to see what great ideas and projects will arise in the 2024 flash grants process!

Jefferson Trust Grants Highlight Student Experiences

The Jefferson Trust Board of Trustees has awarded $1.4 million to 17 new projects and programs.

“Given the volume of requests we received this year, I couldn’t be more pleased with the scope of projects and programs the Trustees ultimately funded,” says Brent Percival, Executive Director of the Jefferson Trust. “The Trust made fourteen Annual Cycle grants each of the past two years. This year, we have 17, which speaks to the Trustees desire to maximize the limited funding available to impact as many parts of the University community as possible”.

“This Annual Cycle started with 123 letters of inquiry and resulted in 17 grants,” shares Amy Bonner, Director of Grants. “While I wish we could fund them all, this is a great step toward our vision of seeing every great idea at UVA come to fruition”.

This year’s proposals and subsequent grants were among the most diverse we have ever seen. From community impact measures to unique student projects, to translational research, these ventures illustrate the vibrancy that exists across the University.

The 2023-24 Grants:

UVA Student Engagement with Local Black Histories: River View Farm: $98,800

Support enhances undergraduate course AAS 4501 and creates a summer internship program with the Department of African American and African Studies and the Ivy Creek Foundation. Students will be trained in public history methods, and archival and genealogical research at River View Farms, exposing them to archive-based research, oral history, and 3D modeling.

The World at Your Doorstep, Democracy’s Future in Your Hands: $100,000

New courses will be created to allow students to establish research partnerships with faculty and international advocates and participate in international conferences focused on the future of democracy and democratic rights.  The program will bring leaders in the field to Grounds and provide students hands-on global experience.

Jefferson Society Bicentennial Storytelling Project: $33,850

Interviews from alumni will be recorded and compiled into a multimedia exhibit, along with the society’s physical archives, to celebrate the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society’s bicentennial in 2025.

Nursing Narratives: $24,000

Funding helps to add a recurring editorial section to both the print and digital versions of “Virginia Nursing Legacy,” UVA School of Nursing’s quarterly magazine. Content will focus on capturing the voices, experiences, and opinions of UVA nurses (including students, faculty, and alumni), giving them a platform to share, and giving readers a closer look at the issues and topics that impact nurses.

SPRINT Program: Bridging the Gap to Enhanced Rehabilitation and Community Engagement: $120,000

The Sports Performance Rehabilitation Integrating Neuromuscular Training (SPRINT) program aims to reduce re-injury rates and increase the number of patients successfully returning to sports post-surgery, from knee injuries. SPRINT will serve as a learning platform for students aspiring in sports medicine, physical therapy, or sports performance domains.

D-Mine: $24,972

With the purchase of a thermal camera, a drone with increased thermal sensitivity, and other related equipment, the D-Mine project aims to develop new de-mining software that can save lives, resources, and time for anti-explosive teams, ultimately de-mining territories more quickly and safely.

UVA Cyber Range: $71,548.79

Designed to enhance cybersecurity education, support research, and promote cybersecurity endeavors outside the classroom, a team of students will provide an environment for students to conduct a wide range of cyber experiments.

A Partnership to Promote Innovation and Excellence in Lower Division Mathematics Courses: $170,000

A collaboration between lower division mathematics faculty and the Motivate Lab, this project aims to increase students’ success in calculus classes through growth-based assessments and a summer bridge program.

UVai Vanguard: $112,870

This project is a groundbreaking initiative to integrate Generative Artificial intelligence (AI) and Large Language Models (LLMs) into academic settings including research, mentorship, and teaching.

Preparing Students for Careers in Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (CTAP): $90,000

Through research, outreach, collaboration, and pilot courses, the Careers in Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence Program (CTAP) aims to provide UVA students with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the growing Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI) workforce.

Design Discovery Youth Summer Program: $86,300

Hosted by the UVA School of Architecture, Design Discovery is a six-day summer program bringing high school students to explore design school and related professions, through academic and real-world settings.

The influence of early-life sensory exposure on neural circuitry following preterm birth: $200,000

A multi-disciplinary, cross-Grounds team of researchers and clinicians is examining how variable early life sensory exposure following preterm birth shapes developing neural circuitry to ultimately impact developmental outcomes.

UVA Facilities Management Community Connections Program: $102,000

In partnership with the Charlottesville communities and surrounding counties, Facilities Management is expanding a workforce development pipeline program for middle- and high-schoolers to work towards pre-apprenticeship certification in skilled trades.

ChangeMaker Bootcamp: $20,000

Through skill development, networking, mentorship, and resource access, social entrepreneurial minded students will gain experience planning, developing, and building a new social venture in this week-long program.

Gardening Grounds: Envisioning Alternate Paradigms and Practices of Landscape Care at UVA: $30,000

A collaborative research project across Grounds, involving Landscape Architecture and Architecture graduate students, explores how the design and care of planted landscapes across Grounds can be adapted to sustain greater biodiversity, spark awareness and foster stewardship of the mutual relationship between landscape health and human well-being.

Center for Forest Urbanism: $86,000

A new pan-university research and policy center focused on the conservation of urban trees and forests, the center will engage a range of disciplines, expertise, and partners across Grounds, and nationally, to gather insights from innovative city best practices, law, policy, economics, and science.

VCAC Student Symposium: $30,000

Funding helps to bring current UVA students who were served by Virginia College Advising Corps (VCAC) advisers together for a symposium, which will include networking opportunities and related programming over shared experiences.

Grant Requests Reach High

UVA grant seekers, thank you! The Trust received 123 Letters of Inquiry (LOI) requesting over $14.9 million in our annual grant cycle. Sixty-eight of these requests, seeking over $7.8 million, have moved forward to the full proposal stage.

Submissions cover a wide variety of topics, including unique research opportunities, global experiences, community support efforts, and student well-being. Proposals were received from over 19 student groups, almost every school, and a variety of University-related organizations.

Our Proposals Committee has started reviewing the proposals in advance of the final round, which is an in-person pitch. The Trustees will look to grant $1.5 million this year across all funding cycles.

If you missed the annual cycle deadline, Flash Funding applications open December 15 for the January 2024 flash cycle. Flash Funding grants are capped at $10,000 and focus on short-term projects or immediate use opportunities, often for student organizations. Flash Funding runs in the spring semester, and grants are made on a month-to-month basis as long as funds are available. Visit our Grant Seekers page for more information.

As always, we are available to discuss your potential project and answer any funding questions. Contact our Director of Grants, Amy Bonner, for more information.

Rotunda Planetarium open house is back!

For one night only, the Rotunda Planetarium is open again to the public! Friday, November 24, 2023, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

In the summer of 1818, Thomas Jefferson envisioned a painted planetarium, spanning the Rotunda’s dome. “It is proposed to be painted sky-blue and spangled with gilt stars in their position and magnitude copied exactly,” he wrote. Fast-forward to 2019, and three UVA doctoral students worked to bring Jefferson’s vision to life. They received a Trust grant to purchase the equipment to “open the ceiling to the stars” and host an exhibition on the Rotunda Library’s early years.

Make plans to view the constellations and stars in the Rotunda Dome Room on the 24th. This event is free and open to the community. Special music from the Youth Orchestras of Central Virginia, and a visit from historical actor-interpreter, Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson. We hope to see you there!

Where are they now?

In 2021 the Trust awarded $984,850 to fifteen annual grant projects. Some of these projects are finished and have hosted their events (Skyscraper Gothic exhibition, Biomaterial Building Exposition), while others have created sustaining programs (UVA Edge at SCPS, Women’s Maker Program). We’re excited to share updates from three others awarded in 2021:

Workforce Development in Data Science for Autistic Young Adults received $99,000 to help create a program to prepare a new generation of adults on the autism spectrum to be data scientists. As their initial grant winds down in 2023, the team is working on securing additional funding for the expansion and continuation of the program. “Out of the 6 students in the program, 5 had related internships/jobs by the end of the program. These students all were on the autism spectrum and had struggled to find relevant positions. This was the goal of the entire program, and we feel like this was the major impact to the community at large.” Shared project director, Kylen Baskerville.

UVA Brain Camp

UVA Brain Camp was awarded $49,000 to provide hands-on education in neuroscience to local youth. The program has since partnered with another grant project, Starr Hill Pathways at the Equity Center, to establish a neuroscience ‘pathway’ for Starr Scholars to explore. This partnership is helping to make Brain Camp more sustainable, reach more students, and add additional curriculum and activities to engage young scientific minds.

Affordability and Equity: Open Educational Resources received $77,400, allowing faculty the time and resources to create alternative solutions to expensive textbooks. Working with instructional designers and librarians, faculty can re-work existing, or create new, resources to be used in their courses. More than a dozen faculty projects are revolutionizing their teaching resources.

We are continually impressed with the innovation, impact, and growth our grant recipients have on the University and community at large.

Stepping Up Early


The Jefferson Trust has ten board members who finished their undergraduate work within the past 12 years – fitting the Alumni Association’s definition of a “young alum.”

These alumni joined the board because they were passionate about giving back early. The engagement with, and love for UVA that sustained them as students has inspired them to play an active role in shaping the institution’s future. Here are reflections from a few of them about their experience.

John Burns (Col ’15)

While a student at UVA, I was able to take advantage of several alumni-sponsored opportunities. When I was approached with a chance to serve on the Trust, it seemed like an immediately tangible way to pay those opportunities forward for other students. It’s proven to be exactly that, and more. As a younger Trustee, I’ve been able to connect with the full Trust board in a meaningful way – some Trustees were at my wedding, others have become business partners, and all are friends and connections that I’m grateful to maintain. Serving on the Trust has been a wonderful way to remain connected to the happenings of UVA, and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a manner in which to give back to the University.

John became a Trustee in 2016 and serves on the Development Committee. His wife, Faith, joined him on the Board in 2022 and serves on the Proposals Committee. The couple live and work in Washington, DC.

Harry Elkins (Engr ’17) & Allie Bing Elkins (Com ’17)

We truly believe that the University of Virginia is the best place on Earth to learn and grow. Since graduation, we have wanted a way to become meaningfully engaged on Grounds again, and the Jefferson Trust, with its mission of advancing the student experience, is the perfect fit.

Harry and Allie are recent additions to the Board.  They look forward to returning to Grounds from their home in Houston and have joined the Proposals Committee.

George Brown (Col ’19, Darden ’24)

The Trustees range of perspectives are tied to the same goal, advancing UVA.  For me, the Trust is the first step in a lifetime of service to the University.

George joined the Trust shortly after finishing his undergraduate work. Now, as a Darden student, he helps advance the organization as a leader on the Engagement Committee.

Jill Reid (Col ’11)

When I joined the Jefferson Trust, I was looking for a connection with the University. I have gotten that and so much more: a chance to meet some of the brightest minds on Grounds; the opportunity to fund innovative projects that enhance the student experience, inspire the faculty, and connect the school to the greater community; and to meet incredibly interesting and engaged alumni.

My time as a student at UVA gave me an amazing education, unparalleled friendships, and a spirited community. My time as an alum on the Trust has only helped to further those connections and allow me to be a part of advancing the University of which I am so proud to be an alum.

Jill is in the final year of her current board term.  She has provided valuable counsel and management on the Finance Committee.  She lives in New York where she works in finance for Loews Hotels.

Will Pike (Engr ’16)

The Jefferson Trust has been the perfect fit in my search to reconnect philanthropically with the University. Its focus on grants with direct student impact, reach across Grounds, and community of diverse and accomplished trustees have been both eye opening and inspiring to me. The Trust hits all the marks for active philanthropy and continued learning, and I look forward to staying involved for many years to come.

Will joined the Board in 2020 and serves on the Development Committee.  He lives in Dallas where he works for the Pike Corporation.

The Trust firmly believes that it is never too early (or too late) to make an impact.  We are proud of these young alumni for stepping up and playing an active role in shaping their beloved University.

2023-24 Annual Cycle is Open

Want to start something new? We can fund it.

UVA students, faculty, and staff: do you have a crazy idea but need funding? The Jefferson Trust Annual Grant Cycle is open for the 2023-24 academic year!

Proposals can come from students, faculty, and staff for a variety of new programs and projects—everything from starting a new student group to supporting an innovative research project to seeding a University initiative. The Annual Cycle is intended for requests with budgets ranging from $10,000 to over $300,000, but there are no minimums and maximums vary based on available funds.

Key dates to remember:

  • August 2023: LOI forms are available in the grant portal and can be submitted now!
    • Every Annual Cycle grant starts with a Letter of Inquiry (LOI), which is an opportunity to simply explain the idea (no need to justify it or cite sources; less is more). Requests are reviewed on a rolling basis.
    • Early LOI entries (before September 15) have a chance for edits and resubmission.
  • October 1: Last day to submit a finalized LOI. From there, selected LOIs move to the proposal stage.
  • October 31: Proposal deadline. After review, the final batch moves forward for in-person pitches to the full Board of Trustees.
  • January 2024: Proposal pitches
  • February 2024: Grants awarded.

We encourage you to plan ahead! You may preview the LOI questions and the Annual Cycle Proposal. When you’re ready to submit an LOI, log on to our Grant Portal.

Annual Cycle Tips

UVA grant seekers, are you already working on your proposal or considering applying for a Jefferson Trust grant? Consider these tips:

  1. Keep your Letter of Inquiry (LOI)/proposal form succinct. The key is to sell the idea first and not get lost in extraneous details.
  2. Use numbers to illustrate the scope and scale of your project whenever possible. Trustees want to clearly see the potential impact of your project—on the student experience, University community, or society at large.
  3. Budgets are important, so double-check your numbers and make sure it all adds up.
  4. Write for a lay audience. Not all reviewers are subject-matter experts in your field, so ask someone who is not affiliated with your project to read the LOI/proposal to see if they understand what you are presenting.
  5. Focus on your project’s novelty, uniqueness, or the specific niche it fills. The Trust has recently moved into funding research projects but is limited to efforts that bring students into the lab or is completely new. Graduate thesis projects, existing projects, or projects that clearly could be funded elsewhere are not likely to receive a Trust grant.

Have additional questions? Visit our grant seekers page to view our grant guidelines and contact our Director of Grants, Amy Bonner, at 434-243-9078 or abonner@virginia.edu. An idea is more likely to be funded if we have a chance to work with the grant seeker. You may preview the LOI questions and the Annual Cycle Proposal.