PIT-UN Challenge

The Penn State PIT Alliance is pleased to announce the launch of the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) Challenge – Year 3 limited submission competition.


The PIT University Network Challenge seeks to encourage new ideas, foster collaborations, and incentivize resource- and information-sharing among network members. In 2020—PIT-UN’s second year—42 proposals from 28 institutions were awarded a total of $4,404,595 in grant funds.

For its third year, projects addressing any of the priority areas below are welcome:

  • Educational Offerings
  • Career Pipeline/Placement
  • Faculty & Institution Building
  • Strengthening the PIT University Network

Projects may include such ideas as:

  • Experiential learning opportunities, such as clinics, fellowships, apprenticeships, or internships that give students real-world exposure to the practice of Public Interest Technology.
  • New models of career training, placement, and/or financial support for individuals who seek to pursue careers in the nascent field of Public Interest Technology.
  • Partnerships with nonprofit, private sector, or affinity group partners that demonstrate the real-world application of Public Interest Technology to center community voice in pursuit of solutions for pressing problems, particularly challenges experienced by marginalized communities least well served by existing systems and policies.
  • New models to aid faculty participation in (and recognition for) the research, curriculum development, teaching, and service work that builds Public Interest Technology as an arena of inquiry and training.
  • Platforms or practices to connect educators focused on Public Interest Technology so they may share curricula and strategies for improving Public Interest Technology programs.
  • Projects that aim to identify and pursue the central issues and questions that animate Public Interest Technology as a field of study.

The PIT-UN Challenge will prioritize projects that center the needs of communities that have historically been denied access to new technologies, been systematically left out of conversations at the intersection of technology and policy, and who have been denied opportunities to join the technology workforce, in efforts to further the positive social impact of technology for all communities. Centering community needs may be demonstrated by incorporating community partners in the design and execution of proposed projects.

Proposals are invited in three funding tranches:

  • Up to $45,000 for direct and indirect costs
  • Up to $90,000 for direct and indirect costs
  • Up to $180,000 for direct and indirect costs which shall be in collaboration with the Law, Policy, and Engineering initiative

Budgets should be inclusive of an indirect rate, set at 20% of total direct costs. Penn State can submit a total of three proposals, only one of which can fall within the funding tranche $91,000-$180,000.

Internal Nomination Process:

Interested applicants should upload the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (Filename: Last name_PIT-UN_2021 no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

  • Cover Letter (1 page, pdf):
    • Descriptive title of the proposed activity
    • PI name, departmental affiliations(s), and contact information
    • Co-PI's names and departmental affiliation(s)
    • Names of other key personnel
    • Participating institution(s)
    • Title of this funding opportunity
    • Funding tranche
  • Project Description (no more than three pages, pdf) identifying the project scope that addresses the following components 
    • Project Plan
    • Impact
    • Network Impact
    • Institutional Support
    • Partnerships (internal or external partnerships (current or planned))
    • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • 2-page CV's of Investigators

Formatting Guidelines:

Font/size: no smaller than 11 pt.
Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left, and right)
Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)

The Office of Foundation Relations and Penn State PIT Alliance are the designated institutional contacts responsible for communicating to PIT-UN. For questions concerning the application process and other network-related questions, applicants should please contact Sandra Allain, director of Law, Policy, and Engineering and University designee with the PIT-UN, or Sophie Penney, Ph.D., director of Foundation Relations, for additional support.

  • Internal Submission Deadline: Tuesday, June 1, 2021
  • Funding Organization's Deadline: Thursday, July 15, 2021
  • Award Cycle: 2022
  • Discipline/Subject Area: Public Interest Technology



The Law, Policy, and Engineering (LPE) initiative is an interdisciplinary academic and research initiative between Penn State's College of Engineering, Penn State Law, and Penn State's School of International Affairs. The initiative will provide a transformative educational experience for students by actively integrating components of all three disciplines into the curriculum to prepare students for the competitive, interdisciplinary, global workplaces of the future. 

Law, Policy, and Engineering Initiative

The Pennsylvania State University

Engineering Design and Innovation Building

University Park, PA 16802