The Vilas Life Cycle Professorships provide funds to faculty and non‑emeritus permanent PIs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who are at critical junctures in their professional careers and whose research productivity has been directly affected by personal life events (e.g., illness of a dependent, parent, spouse/partner, or oneself; complications from childbirth; combination of major life events).
These funds are available to tenure-track and tenured faculty, and non-emeritus academic staff with permanent PI status at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. All faculty and non-emeritus permanent PIs are eligible, regardless of discipline or gender.
To apply for a Vilas Life Cycle Professorship, please complete these four steps:
- Fill out the cover page, budget and budget justification form, and the current/pending support form (RSP hosts an online tool that may help produce the required current and pending support data). Awards are capped at $40,000. Funds may be used for summer salary in a limited way; view the FAQs or the RSP Vilas Rates page or contact Jennifer Sheridan for more information. The award period is one year.
- Write a statement of need in 3 pages or less. Statement should at minimum address four main points:
- Why is this a critical juncture in your career?
- What is the life event you are experiencing, and how has it affected your research progress?
- How will the requested funds help you through the crisis and enhance your research program?
- What are the costs/consequences of not receiving the funding?
- Include your CV or a biographical sketch in the application package.
- A letter of support from your department chair is encouraged, but not required.
Applications may be submitted either in hardcopy form, or via email. Hardcopies may be mailed to:
3065 Mechanical Engineering Building
1513 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53706
Email applications should be sent to Jennifer Sheridan.
Because critical life events cannot, in many cases, be planned for in advance, deadlines for submission of applications will occur three times a year. In 2019, these deadlines are:
- May 31, 2019 (for awards beginning between July 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019)
- September 27, 2019 (for awards beginning before February 1, 2020)
- December 27, 2019 (for awards beginning before June 1, 2020)
The Vilas Life Cycle Professorship applications will be processed through the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI) and the Office of the Provost. Applications will remain confidential within the review committee. The Provost’s Office has final approval of all VLCP awards recommended by the award committee. Awardees must agree to submit a report of activities upon completion of the Professorship period. WISELI will also request participation in evaluation efforts for the program. Once awarded, the processing of expenditures of the grant funds occurs within the recipient’s department or unit.
If you have questions about the Vilas Life Cycle Professorships, contact Jennifer Sheridan; (608) 263-1445. Common questions may be addressed in this list of Frequently Asked Questions.
In special cases, a divisional Associate Vice Chancellor from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education may be asked for technical advice regarding the research program; they will also regard the application materials as confidential.
I’m a/an (assistant professor/associate professor/full professor). Can I apply?
All ranks of faculty (assistant, associate, full) may apply, and all ranks have been funded in the past. Academic staff with permanent PI status (see this UW–Madison KB doc for a list of individuals) are also eligible. Because one main criterion for making an award is that the faculty member is at a “critical career juncture”, assistant professors often receive priority in funding compared to tenured professors. However, any rank of faculty member can be at a “critical career juncture”, so all ranks are eligible for the award. For associate and full professors, clearly articulate WHY you are at a critical career juncture in your statement of need when you answer the question “Why is this a critical juncture in your career?”
My life/work event isn’t THAT bad—should I even apply?
If you feel that your research productivity has been impacted by a life/work event, and that your career is in serious jeopardy, then you should apply even if in the scheme of things, your event might not seem big. Do keep in mind, however, that in general we imagine that faculty will only be able to access these funds once. Be sure that this is the most advantageous time to apply. We are not saying that we will never fund people more than once, especially if the events are completely separate occurrences (see below); however, we will certainly give priority to faculty who have never applied before.
I’ve already received a Vilas Life Cycle Professorship—can I apply again?
Yes, of course you can apply. However, we will not be able to fund an application for continued funding for the same “life event.” Also, when comparing your (second) application to others in the applicant pool, we will likely give yours a lower priority. We receive about twice as many applications as we have funds to cover, so we try to make sure that many different faculty have access to these funds.
What should the title be?
The title can be anything. Most people use the title of their research project. We do not publish the titles of any applications or awards, to maintain the confidentiality ofthe recipients as much as we can.
May I use the funds for salary?
The Vilas Trust will allow a limited amount of the award to be used for the salary of the PI. PI salary is limited to the equivalent of 2/9ths of the lowest paid Vilas Research Professors salary, and is payable only in July and August of the award year. The appropriate fringe rates will be charged for all personnel on the award. Per the terms of the Vilas Trust, this award may not be used to supplement base salary or provide a temporary base adjustment. See RSP’s Vilas rates webpage for the current summer salary rates and additional information.
Are there any types of research expenses you do not fund?
There are two main types of requests that we typically do not fund because there are other sources for those kinds of expenses on campus (e.g., Graduate School travel funds, school/college capital exercises). We typically do not fund any conference travel, and we very often will cut requests for new computers/laptops and general supplies such as paper, ink cartridges, etc. unless an extremely compelling case can be made why the new computer/general supplies are directly related to the research project at hand.
What is the "other funding" column for? Do I fill in ALL of my project funding?
If you are proposing to use Vilas Life Cycle Professorship funding for an item that cannot be 100% funded by the Vilas funds, then the committee needs to know where the additional funding is coming from. For example, if you are proposing to use the $40,000 Vilas funding towards the salary of a lab manager, but the lab manager costs more than $40,000 to employ, then we need to know where the other sources of funding for that lab manager will come from. This is especially important when the applicant is proposing to partially fund a PA or RA; we need to know who we are splitting the tuition remission with for planning purposes.
Why do you want to know about my other grant funding?
The committee must compare the level of need of each applicant, and part of the committee’s determination of “need” includes whether the applicant has other resources upon which to draw. This is not to say that having other grants will necessarily disadvantage you; it is just one way that we have to compare applicants. Often, the committee has seen merit in the application, but because the current grant funding was adequate, the committee has recommended postponing an award, or asking the applicant to reapply if a pending grant is not awarded. We need to help as many faculty as possible with these funds, and spreading them out over time is one way we can achieve that goal.
How do I report my startup funds?
If you have any startup funds remaining, please report this in your Current and Pending Support list. If you are an assistant professor and have depleted your startup funds, please note this somewhere in your application so that the review committee does not think that the startup was simply left off the list.
Where in this application do I talk about my science/research?
The goal of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship program is to further the career of a UW–Madison faculty member through funding of his/her research. The program is successful if faculty members get their careers back on track (e.g., they receive tenure, their next grant proposal is approved, their next novel is published, they stay at UW–Madison). We make the basic assumption that ALL UW–Madison faculty are doing wonderful research, and that is why they are here and why we want to retain them. Thus, the application is not, except in rare occasions, evaluated on the basis of the scholarship of the applicant. That said, the funds are to be used ONLY for research expenses, so in your description of the use of the funds, some description of your research program is necessary. Most applicants write about their research in relation to their proposed spending—this usually appears in response to the question “How will the requested funds help you through the crisis and enhance your research program?”
Does the application need to be single-spaced? What should the margins be?
We specify a 3-page limit for the “statement of need” because most faculty can share their issues and describe their request in that amount of space. We do not intend this application process to be a burden. We have no requirements about the formatting—it can be double- or single-spaced, it can have wide or narrow margins—we are not picky.
What if my department chair can’t send a letter by the deadline?
If your chair can’t get a letter produced by the deadline, it is adequate to let us know that one is coming, and to have it sent later after the deadline. Please do let us know to expect a letter, however.
What if I don’t want my department chair to know what’s going on?
Some faculty want their chairs to know what is happening in their lives, and other faculty do not want their chairs to know. For this reason, letters from chairs are not required, and applications that do not include letters from chairs are never disadvantaged because of it. All Vilas Life Cycle Professorship applicants should understand, however, that if they are awarded a grant then once the funding is set up in the department, the chair will know about the award because of the normal reporting procedures when a new 133 account is set up. Although the chair (and other individuals, such as the Provost and the Vilas Trustees) will know that you received a Vilas Life Cycle Professorship, only the four committee members who review the applications will know the reasons for the award, and they will keep the information confidential to the extent allowed by law.
If I email the application, how do I send in my signature on the front page?
If you cannot append an electronic signature (e.g., a jpg of your signature), then please sign a physical copy of the front page and campus mail it to WISELI (3065 Mechanical Engineering Building). As long as the rest of the application is emailed by the deadline date, it doesn’t matter if the signature page arrives a few days late.
What time is the application due on the deadline day?
If you are emailing the application, the deadline is 11:59pm of the due date (just so the date sent is the same as the deadline day.) If you are dropping off a hard copy, there is usually somebody in the WISELI office (3065 ME Building) until 4pm on workdays. To be fair to all applicants, please try to submit your application on or before the deadline day.
Can I have more than one year to spend the funds?
Funding is for a period of one year, and is subject to constraints imposed by the fiscal cycle which ends on June 30 each year. Be warned! For any award that straddles two fiscal years, we will request a revised budget splitting the funds between the two. Any funds requested for your first (partial) year not spent by June 30 will be lost. Consult with your department financial administrator(s) to be sure you meet all of the University spending regulations.
Can I switch my spending later?
Changes in budget allocation may be considered in exceptional circumstances.
Evaluation Reports, Publications, and Media Articles
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 18, 2018. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.”
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 19, 2018. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.”
Sheridan, Jennifer; Christine Maidl Pribbenow; Molly Carnes; Jo Handelsman; and Amy Wendt. 2015. “Life Happens: The Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” In Family Friendly Policies and Practices in Academe (Catherine R. Solomon and Erin K. Anderson, Eds.) Washington DC: Lexington Books.
“The LEAD Center Helps Faculty Improve Productivity.” Wisconsin Center for Education Research Feature Stories. March 9, 2015.
“When Life Intervenes, One University Steps Up to Help.” Bernice Durand. CSWP Gazette. 27(1): 1,10. Spring, 2008.
Alfred P. Sloan Award for Faculty Career Flexibility. $25,000 award for the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program. Funded by the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Sloan Foundation. May 11, 2006.
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl; Christine Fabian; and Jennifer Sheridan. April 14, 2017. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.”
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 15, 2016. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.”
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 15, 2015. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.”
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 14, 2014. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 16, 2013. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 18, 2012. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 15, 2011. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program.
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 10, 2010. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorship Program."
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 10, 2009. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorships Program.”
Benting, Deveny; Christine Maidl Pribbenow; and Jennifer Sheridan. April 14, 2008. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorships Program.”
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Jennifer Sheridan. April 18, 2007. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorships Program.”
O’Connell, Kathleen and Jennifer Sheridan. April 10, 2006. “Evaluation of the Vilas Life Cycle Professorships.”
Pribbenow, Christine Maidl and Deveny Benting. June 9, 2004 (revised September 23, 2004.) “WISELI’s Life Cycle Research Grant Program: Formative and Summative Evaluation.”