Smart Scholars Program

The Smart Scholars program supports research opportunities at the Smart Museum of Art resulting in an original creative work (of visual art, music, dance, writing), public program, or scholarly essay. 

Posted July 26, 2021

Call for Proposals

The Smart Museum of Art supports excellence in undergraduate education at the University of Chicago by expanding opportunities for object-centered inquiry. The Smart Scholars Program is designed to foster an expanded range of scholarly and creative expressions for undergraduate researchers interested in the visual arts. This program supports research opportunities at the Smart Museum of Art resulting in an original creative work (such as visual art, music, dance, writing, etc.), program, or scholarly essay. Students propose their own projects grounded in academic research into one or more objects in the Museum’s collection. For example, this research can propose utilizing library, database, archive, conservation, materials science laboratory, or another museum’s resources to pursue the realization of the proposed project.

Successful proposals will be awarded a $4,500 stipend distributed over the course of the academic year. A limited amount of additional funding may be available for expenses related to project documentation, technology, supplies, travel, etc. If your proposal is selected for the Smart Scholars Program, your assigned mentor will work with you early on in your project to help you identify whether additional funding is needed. If you and your mentor determine that additional funding is needed, a budget document with cost justifications will be required for review and approval by no later than the end of the fall quarter 2021.

You can read about projects completed by Smart Scholars last year elsewhere on the Smart Museum of Art’s website.

Principle Responsibilities:


Preferred Skills
Excellent research and communication skills, time management skills, and some training or experience in the proposed area (medium of proposed creative work, program, scholarly essay, etc.). It is helpful if applicants have already completed an introductory Art History course, but this is not a requirement.

Skills that will be Gained from this Experience
Smart Scholars will experience the creative and intellectual satisfaction of seeing their research into works of art come to fruition in a public forum through display, readings, performance, or other activities.

Time commitment
There is some flexibility in beginning and end dates of the project, but it is expected that Smart Scholars will spend the majority of the current academic year working on their proposed project at a rate of approximately 10 hours per week. This will naturally fluctuate from week to week. Smart Museum staff will work with students individually on project scheduling and hours per week in a way that meets the needs of each unique project. Students accepted into the Smart Scholars Program this year will be required to prepare a work schedule for the duration of their project and share that with their assigned mentor. It is important to keep the year-long term of the academic calendar in mind when crafting your project proposal. As noted above, there will need to be a certain amount of flexibility between working on your project remotely vs. on-site at the museum or elsewhere.

Successful proposals will be awarded a $4,500 stipend distributed over the course of the academic year

Application requirements:
(1) Resume or CV (Curriculum Vitae)
(2) 350-word project proposal, including:
     (a) Identification of one or more focal works from the Smart Museum of Art’s collection
     (b) Description of work to result from research: creative work (such as visual art, music, dance, writing), program, scholarly essay, etc.
     (c) Identification and description of any resources needed to complete research and resulting project, if applicable
     (d) Please see the information about Q&A sessions/proposal workshops and contact information below if you have questions about what to include or not include in your proposal narrative (as you craft your proposal, please read about projects completed by Smart Scholars last year on the Smart Museum of Art’s website)
(3) Unofficial transcript (please download an unofficial copy from the Registrar’s office; do not submit a screen shot of your myuchicago page)

Smart Scholars Q&A sessions/proposal workshops
Issa Lampe, Director of the Feitler Center, and Aaron Wilder, Academic Engagement Coordinator, will provide a short overview of the Smart Scholars program and will answer students' questions about the proposal submission process and the program in general. Two Zoom sessions are available during the first week of August 2021 (please register in advance for the session most convenient for you using the relevant hyperlink below):

Application submission
E-mail your completed application packet (items listed above in the “Application requirements” section) as a single PDF document to Aaron Wilder, Academic Engagement Coordinator,

Proposal submission deadline is Sunday, August 29, 2021, by 11:59 pm Central. Candidates will undergo a thorough review by Smart Museum of Art staff and finalists will be invited to interview.

Contact information
If you have questions about the application process or would like to discuss your ideas as you are developing your project proposal, please attend one of the Q&A sessions/proposal workshops outlined above. If you are not able to attend either of these sessions, contact Aaron Wilder, Academic Engagement Coordinator,


Smart Scholars is an initiative of the Smart Museum of Art’s Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry made possible in part by generous funding from the Smart Family Foundation of New York. Additional support has been provided by the University of Chicago’s College Center for Research & Fellowships (CCRF).