The Power of Public and Activist Scholarship

Call for Case Studies

Imagining America’s Leading and Learning Initiative is a three year action research project concerned with expanding the ways in which academic institutions understand, value, and support public, engaged, and activist scholarship. A critical part of this project is to document and share powerful examples of public scholarship and campus culture change efforts. Towards this goal, the LLI invites campus and community partners to apply to participate in the Stories of Change multimedia documentary project. The LLI’s Stories of Change project will provide funding and creative support to selected applicants to document their own work, to be promoted and shared widely through a national IA communication and advocacy campaign. The LLI seeks case studies in the following categories:

(1) Expanding Understandings of Knowledge Production:

The work of individuals and collectives of public, activist, and engaged scholars who expand our understanding of knowledge production beyond the limits of traditional disciplinary norms through decolonized, collaborative, community-based, public, and/or movement aligned theories, methods, and practices. In this category we aim to center those who most directly experience the structural contradictions and enduring institutional inequalities experienced by public, activist, and engaged scholars described in the LLI Year One Report. In this category we welcome both higher education and community based projects.

(2) Catalyzing Institutional Change:

Cases of impactful strategies of institutional leaders, offices, and initiatives (from within and outside of institutions of higher education) that represent a long-haul commitment to culture and policy change in academic institutions on behalf of public and activist scholarship.

(3) Demonstrating the Power of Public, Engaged, and Activist Arts, Design, and Humanities:

This category includes collaborative projects that reveal the power of creative and narrative based public, engaged, and activist work that address the pressing public challenges of our time. We invite submissions from project leaders, community-based centers of knowledge production, students, staff, and faculty of all appointment types, and other collaborators. 

Where applicable, applicants may submit a proposal that fits within more than one category. Selected projects will receive funding, creative support in producing the case study, promotional support, and engagement in IA learning platforms via a national communications campaign. Each awarded applicant will produce a multimedia documentary case study, also including a written 3-5 page short story with photo documentation for publication on IA’s website and in other venues.

Benefits of Participating:

Successful applicants will receive the following forms of support:

• $2,000 stipend upon completion of the case study documentation

• Training in storytelling and creative media-making towards the production of case studies to be published in the LLI’s online Stories of Change archive on the IA website

• Opportunities to share their work via a national campaign to highlight the power of public scholarship

• Promotional support and networking opportunities with scholars, artists and leaders in the IA consortium and beyond

• Engagement in one or more of the following opportunities to share their work: live dialogues via the IA Teaching and Learning Circle webinar platform, a feature podcast recording with IA StoryShare, and/or participation at the IA National Gathering.

How to Apply:

For full consideration for project funding and support, please submit your application HERE by March 12th, 2021. 
If needed, see the application form before applying online.

Final case study materials will be due to the LLI research team by September 15th, 2021.

For questions about the LLI’s research agenda and to address any other questions, please contact Research Associate Christina Preston, 

For more information on IA’s Leading and Learning Initiative and FAQ’s about the Call for Case Studies, visit the LLI project page.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Leading and Learning Initiative (LLI)?

The LLI is a three year action research project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The main objective of the LLI is to better understand how to shift institutional culture and power in higher education to more fully support public and activist scholarship that engages the methodologies of the arts, design, and humanities. The question of ‘culture shift’ involves understanding the institutional norms and behaviors that marginalize public and activist scholarship and the successful strategies to support this important work. The LLI ultimately aims to radically redefine how we understand where and by whom knowledge is produced; and provide a grounded view and practical tools to advocate for institutional change. In the third year of the project, IA will launch a national campaign to demonstrate the power of public scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design and to advocate for institutional change. Stories of Change case studies will play a critical role in this campaign.

Please read the Year One Report to learn more about the LLI.

Our organization has never created documentary media, can we still participate?

Absolutely! The LLI encourages applications from all individuals with eligible projects, regardless of past experience in creating digital media.

My organization or project is not part of a member affiliated IA campus, can we still participate?

While preference will be given to IA member campuses, anyone is welcome to apply.

Will the LLI host training to assist in media creation?

The LLI will host online training focused on the art of storytelling and to introduce a range of formats, media applications, and software that can be utilized to narrate your project’s aims, methods, impact and change-story.

Who will review the applications?

The review panel includes the LLI research team, Erica Kohl-Arenas (LLI Principal Investigator), Kal Alston (LLI Co-Principal Investigator), and Christina Preston (LLI Research Associate) along with selected members of the LLI Leadership Cohort.

What media formats can authors/producers use to document their case study?

The LLI invites a wide range of media production formats, including but not limited to audio or video, digital illustration, podcast, digital archives, and curated online exhibitions. Each case study will also include a written narrative that describes your culture-change story, responding to the following questions:

A. How do the experiences and engaged work of less institutionally recognized knowledge producers (activist-scholars, artist-scholars, BIPOC, women, queer, and community-based scholars and culture keepers) radically expand our understanding of knowledge production? 

B. How do catalysts in positions of power (within and outside of higher education) further institutional change agendas on behalf of public, engaged and activist scholarship? 

C. How might the creative methodologies and forms of knowledge production in the arts, design, and humanities make higher education more responsive to pressing public needs and issues, while strengthening teaching and learning opportunities for scholars, teachers, and students?

What is the deadline for submission of the application?

The deadline for submission of the online application is March 10, 2021 at 5pm PST.

What is the deadline for submission of final materials?

For successful applicants, the deadline for submission of case study materials is September 15, 2021.

How will the LLI track progress?

The LLI research team will meet with each project after applicants have been selected. The LLI Research Associate will provide individual consultations via email, and through Zoom and telephone meetings midway through the project and before the case study submission deadline.

How will the LLI utilize the materials produced?

The materials created will be part of a national campaign to demonstrate the power ofpublic scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design. The media created will be hosted on the Imagining America website, and shared through the IA newsletter and social media. Participants may also be invited to participate in IA’s StoryShare podcast, webinars, and the National Gathering.

If our project is not chosen, are there other ways we can be involved in the Leading & Learning Initiative?

Yes! Unfortunately, due to budget limitations, we will not be able to fund the documentation of all of the projects submitted for consideration. However the LLI will explore ways to engage all projects through a variety of methods. We are interested in learning from all who are interested in engaging with the LLI!

How and when will the LLI distribute funds?

The LLI will award each completed project a total of $2,000. Funds can be distributed to up to three individuals in three separate payments. It is up to the team to decide on how the funds will be internally allocated. Individuals are also welcome to apply. Payments will be processed as soon as case studies are completed up to the deadline of September 15th, 2021.

Who should I contact if I have additional questions?

Please contact Christina Preston, Research Associate at