Erickson Discovery Grant Program established to assist student academic pursuits

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Rodney A. Erickson Discovery Grant Program, with a first phase goal of $1 million and with private gifts of $500,000 already pledged from University trustees, administrative and academic leaders, and leading volunteers, has been established to award stipends to benefit the studies of undergraduate students. The endowment is being established as one of several tributes to President Erickson to recognize his impact on Penn State over his 37 years of service. 

Erickson Discovery Grants will support the University-wide priority of hands-on undergraduate learning, and enable students to participate in faculty research, attend professional conferences and travel to field sites to pursue studies, creative endeavors and other learning opportunities during the summer. The program helps address an unmet need of several students who cannot afford the associated costs, or the sacrifice of time that might otherwise be spent in paid work, to pursue such engaged scholarship opportunities.

“During almost four decades as a faculty member and administrator at Penn State, Rodney A. Erickson has both represented and encouraged true academic leadership: dedication to the needs of the students and communities we serve, commitment to the highest standards of scholarly achievement, belief in our institution’s potential to make a difference in the larger world,” said Penn State Trustee James Broadhurst when announcing the grant program Thursday (May 8).

“Through support for the Rodney A. Erickson Discovery Grant Program,” he added, “the Penn State community can express its gratitude for Dr. Erickson’s extraordinary dedication to our University and encourage the talented, ambitious students who will carry his model of academic leadership forward.”The program, open to all University undergraduates, requires each applicant to submit a project proposal and letter of endorsement from a faculty mentor who will supervise his or her work. Grants will be awarded to students who demonstrate that their projects will build upon formal and rigorous study of their disciplines. Successful applications will also outline the faculty mentor’s engagement in the project, from assisting the student in developing their research and creative concepts to connecting the student with professional and public audiences for their completed work.

Erickson Discovery Grant recipients will be expected to invest a minimum of 10 hours per week in projects conducted during the academic year and an even greater level of commitment for summer projects. Final reports on each project will be submitted by both students and their faculty mentors, and the Office of Undergraduate Education will maintain an archive of these reports and monitor the ongoing success of Erickson Discovery Grant recipients.

Through initiatives like Erickson Discovery Grants, Robert Pangborn, vice president for Undergraduate Education, said, “Both students and the University benefit: Our graduates are ready to contribute to their fields, their employers and their communities, and our institution’s reputation for excellence is enhanced as student scientists and scholars publish their findings, student artists share their creative work, and student leaders lend their developing skills to help people around the world.”

Pangborn also noted the substantial return on this program’s investment, as undergraduate scholars represent the University at national and international conferences, earn prestigious honors and scholarships and secure placement at the world’s top employers and graduate schools.

The student recipients’ achievements and the continued gifts to the program that supports them will be tributes to Erickson’s academic leadership and service as faculty member, vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate School, provost and president of Penn State. 

To make a gift to the Rodney A. Erickson Discovery Grant Program, please visit To make a pledge, paid over three years, please contact Tammy Williams at 814-863-7353 or email

Last Updated May 12, 2016