Apply for a Campus Action Project Grant

AAUW is dedicated to empowering women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The 2015–16 AAUW Campus Action Project (CAP) grants give students the opportunity to take action in their communities to target the barriers faced by women and girls in STEM. CAP grants of up to $5000 are awarded to 10–12 projects.

Topic Background

In 2013, more than 80 percent of STEM jobs were in engineering and computing. Yet, while more women than ever are succeeding in fields that were once male-dominated, in 2013 women made up only 26 percent of computing professionals and only 12 percent of engineers. The fields that are designing our interconnected and innovative future are missing the creativity, intellect, and drive of half the workforce.

AAUW’s 2015 research report Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing features a review of the current state of engineering and computing and recommendations to increase women’s participation and persistence in these fields. Major themes of the report that provide a rich background for campus-based projects include, but aren’t limited to, the following.

Stereotypes and biases still hold women back.

While explicit (conscious) bias tends to be decreasing, implicit (unconscious) bias is still prevalent. Implicit biases affect people’s views of themselves and the decisions they make, including career choices. Research shows that implicit biases influence both women’s and men’s views of science and mathematics as being “male fields” and can sway women’s educational and career choices regarding these fields. AAUW’s Solving the Equation finds that while the link between “male” and science is weakest for women in mathematical and physical sciences, it still exists. Meanwhile, men in these fields show the strongest association between “male” and science. Chapter three of the report illustrates the potential effects of implicit bias on evaluations and hiring.

Years of research and hundreds of studies have also examined stereotype threat: hampered performance due to the fear of confirming negative stereotypes. AAUW research is expanding our understanding of stereotype threat by examining its presence in STEM workplaces.

Perceptions of engineering and computing affect who feels like they belong in the field.

Solving the Equation found that the perception of engineering and computing work is that it’s solitary and isolated from the community. This means engineering and computer science are losing the opportunity to attract students (both women and men) who want to be doing socially conscious work. Some universities and workplaces connect training in engineering and computing skills with real-world applications to give students a better sense of what they can do with an engineering or computing degree, as well as highlight the enormous societal benefits that arise from engineering and computing work.

School and workplace environments can still be “chilly climates” for women.

Male-dominated workplaces often make it difficult for women to develop a sense of belonging in the field. From stereotypical decor to a lack of female role models, school and workplace environments can be unwelcoming for women and contribute to why many young women don’t see engineering and computing as a good fit and why women leave engineering and computing jobs.

Additionally, male-dominated workplaces may still struggle with issues like sexual harassment and work-life balance that have particular relevance for women entering these fields at this time. Workplace environments are a major factor in who stays in these fields and who leaves.

About AAUW

In the late 1800s, 17 women college graduates gathered to discuss the lack of opportunities available to them. They decided to join together to help other women attend college and to assist those who had already graduated. Today, our work in education continues, but we also advocate for equality beyond classrooms — in boardrooms and courtrooms, on Capitol Hill, at home, and around the world. When women change, the world changes — economically, educationally, and politically. At AAUW, we see our work as the catalyst for that change.

Want more insider tips on how to make your application stand out?

Listen to an archive recording of our webinar about the application process.


  • Applicants must be affiliated with accredited, degree-granting, nonprofit institutions in the United States. Priority consideration is given to teams from AAUW college/university partner member institutions. Learn about the benefits of becoming a C/U partner member, including free AAUW e-student affiliate membership for all undergraduate students.
  • The CAP team must be composed of at least two undergraduate students and a campus professional as the project adviser. Additional campus professionals, graduate students, and undergraduate students are encouraged to join the team.
  • The project adviser must be a campus faculty member or staff professional who will assume programmatic and fiscal responsibility for the project.
  • An AAUW state or branch representative must serve as a community liaison to the CAP team. Find and contact a branch near you.
  • The project must be completed by the end of May 2016.
  • Former CAP grantees or applicants may apply.

Application Components and Instructions

Please read the following application guidelines carefully.

  • Adhere to the specified word limit for each section.
  • Submit the online CAP application by 11:59 p.m. PT on Sunday, September 27, 2015. All application materials must be received at that time in order to be considered. Applicants will be notified of the grant award decisions by mid-November.


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Section I — Your CAP Team

  • The project student leader will be the primary student contact for your project. Teams must include at least two undergraduate students but can also include additional undergraduate and graduate students. Your project should be student-driven.
  • In addition to the project student leader, the project adviser (faculty or staff at your school) will be the contact person for award notification, reporting, publicity, and other grant-related activities. We strongly advise listing an additional project adviser who can assume leadership of the project should the primary project adviser be unable to continue.
  • Some colleges and universities require external grant funds to be administered by a central office. Please check with the appropriate office on your campus to learn about your school’s policy before submitting this application. If no alternative campus contact is designated on the application, grant funds will be made payable to the campus and disbursed to the primary project adviser.
  • List all student participants and their contact information. Demographic background is optional but preferred.
  • Provide information about your institution. AAUW college/university partner members receive special consideration in the selection process.

Section II — Project Description

All projects should be closely related to the topic of breaking down barriers and addressing stereotypes and biases associated with women in STEM fields. Projects should encourage women and girls to participate in STEM. Team goals should include raising awareness and taking action on campus. The use of social media and the creation of an online presence or online materials are encouraged whenever possible to help increase the reach of the project.You may use the following project suggestions to guide your proposals. However, teams should propose creative approaches and should not be limited by the ideas listed below. Consider collaborating with groups on campus, including relevant student organizations, academic departments, faculty, and student engagement offices.

  1. Improve the campus climate for women in engineering and computing. Partner with engineering and computer science departments to evaluate and improve the climate for women in these fields on your campus. You can use the implicit bias test or work with a faculty adviser to modify your own. Projects can focus on improving the retention and satisfaction of women in the department or encouraging undergraduates to pursue the field. See chapters six and seven of Solving the Equation for discussion of successful strategies other colleges have used, including adjusting projects in introductory classes to introduce students to the breadth of the fields, splitting introductory classes by experience, bringing students to conferences, and providing early research opportunities.
  2. Organize a speaker series to share engineering and computing perspectives. Fight the perception that there is only one way to use an engineering or computer science degree by highlighting the many different roles and jobs for engineers and computer scientists. Very few sectors lack a computational component. Bring engineering and computing professionals to campus or local organizations to share what they do and how they got where they are.
  3. Create a visual campaign. Create a video or poster series to highlight how important it is to add women to the conversation. Developing eye-catching visuals is just one way to raise awareness about this existing problem throughout your campus.
  4. Spread the word about the social impact of engineering and computing. Many students are searching for professional opportunities that include a chance to make change in their communities. Organize events on campus that highlight the social importance of engineering and computing. Host fairs, websites, displays, or events that illustrate the many new and fascinating projects that engineers and computer scientists are working on that will change and shape our world. Invite the community to submit examples and ideas.
  5. Form discussion groups. Talk about it! What would you say among a group of college students about the lack of women represented in STEM? Can your campus benefit from talking through the issue and crafting next steps for making your school a more supportive space? Develop a project that allows space for discussion and dialogue to start changing your campus climate.
  6. Begin a mentorship program. When young girls are introduced to empowering women who currently work in or study STEM, they are able to picture themselves in those roles. Connect girls from the local community to current female STEM majors at your school, or connect students at your school to women already in the STEM workforce.

If these suggestions do not fit your campus needs, create a project of your own that addresses this year’s topic.

Section III — AAUW Liaison

Your team must identify an AAUW state or branch representative to serve as a community liaison. This person’s involvement could include attending team meetings, reviewing plans or preliminary reports of project activities, providing AAUW materials for distribution at meetings or events, or assisting with the implementation of the project. Find and contact an AAUW branch near you.If you are having trouble identifying a liaison, please let AAUW staff know before submitting your application. Assistance will be available, especially if your team is selected.

Section IV — Budget

Your application must include an itemized budget for the project and a brief budget narrative.Funds are available for, but not limited to, the following project-related expense categories:

  • Postage, shipping, or courier service
  • Photocopying or duplicating
  • Office supplies
  • Audiovisual materials
  • Project-related telephone costs
  • Transportation and professional fees or honoraria for speakers (should be no more than half of grant request)
  • Meals, food, or beverages for project-related activities
  • Advertising, publicity, or graphic design
  • Equipment purchases
  • Temporary, hourly clerical help
  • Field trips or travel for project participants

Funds cannot be used for

  • Salaries or stipends for project directors, students, or other participants
  • Tuition
  • Higher education scholarships for students or participants
  • Building funds, construction, or renovations
  • Travel expenses for activities not within the scope of the project
  • Overhead or general operating expenses for any organization
  • Personal expenses, shelter, life insurance, or medical/health insurance
  • Previous expenditures, deficits, or loans
  • Creating or providing grants to other organizations
  • Copyright or attorney fees
  • Fundraising activities
  • Conference fees or costs
  • Lobbying or partisan activities
  • Religious purposes

Selection Criteria

CAP proposals will be evaluated according to the following seven criteria:

  • Relevance. The project goals are aligned with the topic and recommendations of the call for proposals.
  • Project description. The goals, project activities, and anticipated outcomes of the project are stated clearly. The target audience is identified, and the project provides opportunities for student leadership development.
  • Feasibility. The project time line is realistic, and the team has the capacity to complete the project within the specified time frame. The desired outcomes and goals are reasonable given the scope of the project.
  • Impact. The project has the potential to engage members of the target audiences and the wider community. The proposal includes a plan to measure or record outcomes; specifics regarding impact are desirable.
  • Outreach. The project will be actively promoted on campus and in the local community. The proposal includes a role for the AAUW liaison.
  • Diversity and inclusion. The project includes and will reach a diverse group of students. Be intentional about making this project accessible for all students and community members. AAUW also aims to have geographic diversity and diversity of school type in the selected teams.
  • Budget. The budget request is closely aligned to project activities, and there is a reasonable and logical justification for each item of the budget. Matching funds and in-kind contributions demonstrate project support (though extra funds are not required).

Special consideration will be given to teams from institutions that are AAUW college/university partner members.

Expectations and Procedures

  • In the planning stage (August–September 2015), the CAP team creates an action plan and develops a project proposal that includes goals, a time line, tasks, a target audience, and evaluation strategies.
  • In the review stage (October 2015–November 2015), the teams check in on the submitted time line with involved stakeholders to ensure that the project is ready to continue once grant notifications are delivered. This helps teams work in a seamless way during the grant cycle.
  • In the implementation stage (December 2015–May 2016), the team concentrates on the coordination of project tasks, develops mechanisms to monitor progress, and prepares to make adjustments or seize emerging opportunities as the project unfolds.
  • In the evaluation stage, (May 2016–June 2016), the team assesses the program’s impact from the team’s perspective, individually and as a group, on those involved in the project — such as co-sponsors or the school — and on participants and beneficiaries.
  • During the evaluation stage, at least one CAP team member will present on all four of these stages at the annual National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in June 2016.

Grant Requirements and Details

In addition to meeting the goals stated in your grant proposal and adhering to the expectations and procedures described above, grantees must fulfill the following requirements:

  • All grant recipients are required to sign a contract and complete additional documentation to accept the award.
  • The project activity must take place between January and May 2016.
  • The primary project student leader and adviser must participate in monthly conference calls with AAUW staff between January and May 2016. Participant schedules are accommodated as much as possible. Project leaders and additional team members must also participate in an initial conference call with AAUW staff in January 2016. CAP teams may schedule additional individual calls with AAUW staff throughout the grant cycle.
  • CAP teams are expected to send AAUW staff updates throughout the CAP grant cycle, including photos, press releases, and media coverage.
  • Teams must submit a preliminary report detailing their progress by March 15, 2016, in order to receive their second round of grant funds.
  • At least one representative from each team must attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in the Washington, D.C., area in June 2016 to present on the team’s project. AAUW will cover travel and conference costs for one representative. Please choose a student team member as the representative who will attend NCCWSL. Teams work with AAUW staff to coordinate attendance at the conference. Your representative participates in a presentation planning conference call at least one month before the conference.
  • Teams must submit a final report on their Campus Action Project by Monday, June 20, 2016. Additionally, teams must also submit their final budgets, receipts, marketing materials, and any supplemental materials to AAUW staff by June 20, 2016.

Each CAP team receives a grant of $1,000–5,000.

  • The grant is payable by AAUW to the participating campus and mailed to the project adviser (unless otherwise indicated) in two payments.
    • CAP teams receive the first half of the funds in December 2015, after AAUW receives the signed contract.
    • CAP teams receive the second half of the funds once they submit a preliminary report in March 2016.
  • Receipts and any unspent funds must be returned to AAUW in June 2016.

Time Line

The following is an outline of major project dates, deadlines, events, and activities. Exact dates for conference calls are established after the team selection process concludes.

September 27, 2015 Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. PT. Please submit your proposal using the online CAP application form.
Mid-November, 2015 Applicants are notified of award decisions by e-mail.
December 9, 2015 Signed contracts are due to AAUW by fax or e-mail. After receiving the signed contract, AAUW disburses half the funds.
November–December 2015 Individual CAP teams should meet regularly to plan their projects.
January–May 2016 CAP teams carry out their projects. All projects must be completed by May 2016.The CAP team student lead and adviser participate in monthly conference calls with AAUW staff and all CAP teams.
March 15, 2016 CAP teams submit preliminary reports. AAUW mails final funds approximately two weeks after receiving the preliminary report.
April–May 2016 One student representative from each CAP team is expected to present on the team’s project at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. That representative is expected to participate in preparation conference calls leading up to NCCWSL.
June 2016 A CAP team representative presents on the team’s project at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in the Washington, D.C., area.
June 20, 2016 CAP teams submit final reports, evaluation materials, and portfolios to AAUW. Final budget and receipts are also due at this time.

Thank you for your interest in AAUW’s Campus Leadership Programs. If you have questions about the Campus Action Project grants, contact or 202.785.7737.