Community-Academic Scholars: Academic Mentors

Participate as a mentor in the Community-Academic Scholars Program

During the 10-week summer program, Community-Academic Scholars work with academic and community mentors to complete a research project that addresses health, poverty, or social inequity. The Community-Academic Scholars Initiative supports the undergraduates with training, weekly meetings, and a stipend to offset the cost of housing and/or other living expenses during the program. Accepted projects will be matched with an undergrad scholar whose interests, experience, and abilities best fit the project.

Eligible projects

  • Involve an established collaboration with a community organization. Community organizations must be non-profits or NGOs, and may include health agencies, summer programs for children, schools, organizations serving special populations, etc. Priority is given to projects that allow a scholar to have direct contact with the community the project serves. 
  • Involve equitable partnership between the researcher and community stakeholder that is grounded in mutual respect, shared authority between university and community partners, and co-creation of goals and outcomes.
  • Address an existing need within the community related to health, poverty, or social inequality.
  • Investigate a specific research question (projects that include only a service component without accompanying research are not eligible).
  • Guarantee a position for a summer undergraduate research assistant.

Preference will be given to projects that allow undergraduate scholars to directly interact (in-person or virtually) with individuals served by the community partner.

View the 2021 projects  View the 2022 projects View the 2023 projects 

Matching scholars with projects

  • Researchers interested in having a scholar on their team complete an application with a description of the project and how it will involve the scholar and community partner.
  • Accepted projects are posted on the website for student applicants to explore.
  • Student applicants rank projects of interest when completing the application.
  • The Community-Academic Scholars team selects and matches student finalists with a project. Academic mentors are invited to be part of the final interview process.
  • Student finalists are notified, and an initial meeting between each team (academic mentor, community mentor, and scholar) is scheduled prior to the May program start date.

Learn about program requirements for scholars

Kevin Tan offers advice for academic mentors

Professor Kevin Tan, who has been involved with the initiative since its inception, offers his insights and advice to faculty and staff interested in learning more about how to get involved with the program. 

Learn More     Watch the Clip

Academic Mentor FAQs

The project submission portal opens annually in November and closes early January. 

Project submissions will be evaluated on multiple criteria, including: 

  1. Community Impact (Does the proposed project benefit the community with whom it is being conducted?
  2. Geographic proximity to Champaign-Urbana and potential for the scholar to have direct contact with the community their project serves.
  3. Strength of community-academic collaboration (Does this project represent an equitable and reciprocal collaboration between academic and community partners?)
  4. Nature of the student research experience (Will the student engage with the community partner on the project, either virtually or in-person?)
  5. Realistic expectations for the summer scholar (Is the role of the student appropriate for a 10-week summer undergraduate research experience?)

Community organizations must be non-profits or NGOs, and may include health agencies, summer programs for children, schools or school districts, park districts, and other organizations serving special populations.

Projects submitted to the Community-Academic Scholars Program do not need to have IRB approval at the time of application. However, IRB approval (or verification of the project's exempt status) must be obtained prior to the start of the summer program. If you have questions about whether your project requires IRB approval, please contact the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects

Multiple project submissions are allowed at this time, provided they have distinct community partners.

  • Once your project has been accepted, you will be notified and then contacted by a member of the Community-Academic Scholars program team who will serve as your point of contact leading up to and during the summer program.
  • Your program team contact will stay in touch throughout the scholar matching process. Once finalists have been selected, you will be invited to participate in the final interview process.
  • Upon scholar acceptance, the program team will help set up an initial meeting between each team (academic mentor, community mentor, and scholar) to touch base about the status of the project prior to the May program start date.

In addition to providing supervision and mentorship for the scholar working on your project, academic mentors are expected to attend program orientation (Date TBD) as well as the final celebration and scholar poster session on August 9, 2023.

Scholar applications open in late January after all academic mentors have been notified of their project's acceptance status. Application review will take place in February, with the goal of finalizing scholar project matching by early March.

  • There will be space on the project application to include the name of a student whom you would recommend to work on your project.
  • This does not guarantee that student's acceptance into the program and they will still need to apply to the program when the scholar application portal opens.

associate professor of African American Studies and Sociology at the University of Illinois and an assistant dean at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, Ruby Mendenhall“I love this program! The students are amazing and help me to move my projects forward during the summer. I highly, highly recommend participating in the program.”

Ruby Mendenhall,
African American Studies