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Luce Initiative on Southeast Asia (LuceSEA)
Application Guidelines

Please read all of the information provided below before applying through our online portal.

Eligibility Requirements

LuceSEA will be open to universities that house the Title VI-funded National Resource Centers for Southeast Asian studies, other institutions in the United States with identified strength in teaching and research on Southeast Asia or a history of engagement with the region, and U.S.-based organizations that support relevant scholarly activity. LuceSEA will also consider proposals from academic and research institutions in Southeast Asia that conform to LuceSEA priorities and guidelines; such proposals must include collaboration with U.S.-based institutions.

Program Scope and Goals

For the purposes of this initiative, Southeast Asia (SEA) is defined as the region encompassing Brunei, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

LuceSEA aims to strengthen the study of SEA in American higher education by providing resources for the creation of models, strategies and partnerships that not only bolster existing program structures but also take them in new directions, including expansion of engagement with Southeast Asian counterparts. The initiative’s three primary emphases are innovation, scholarly infrastructure and collaboration.

Innovation: In response to changes within higher education brought about by globalization, climate change, the digital revolution, and demographic and generational shifts, scholars of SEA are reexamining the conventional area studies model, traditionally focused on a specific geography and based primarily within the humanities and qualitative social sciences, and envisioning new approaches to the way people are trained and research is conducted in order to address contemporary realities. They express a desire for a wider scope within which to work and border crossings of all kinds, including geographic, disciplinary, institutional and sectoral. LuceSEA seeks to catalyze compelling intellectual and institutional responses to this changing landscape through support for SEA-focused initiatives that are experimental, interdisciplinary and collaborative, including, but not limited to, work in fields such as environmental studies, economic history, urban studies, digital humanities, and science, technology and society; linkages between Asian studies and Asian American studies; exploration of inter-area connections such as the Indian Ocean World; and training designed to equip future generations for work of relevance to SEA in academic and non-academic sectors.

Scholarly Infrastructure: While innovation and branching out is to be encouraged, effective work on and in Southeast Asia depends upon scholars with deep and contextualized knowledge of the region, and thus requires continued attention to core scholarly infrastructure, including training in the languages, cultures and histories of particular places as well as the development of resources to support teaching and research. LuceSEA recognizes the centrality of and will provide support for this ongoing need. SEA experts identified language training as among the highest priority areas in need of intervention. Libraries and information technology were also flagged for attention, as were the dearth of funds for student engagement and declining faculty capacity due to retirements and hiring cutbacks. LuceSEA encourages applicants to devise new strategies for the enhancement and reinforcement of scholarly infrastructure for the development of expertise and resources on SEA.

The emphasis on innovation and scholarly infrastructure outlined above was informed by the Asia Program’s process of evaluation, research and consultation with experts in the field, and by learning from grants awarded over the past decade that advanced new initiatives and tested new models of interaction. Our experience reveals that there is no clear dividing line between projects that aim to rethink, widen and deepen the scope of what constitutes Southeast Asian studies while also keeping core infrastructure healthy and resilient. LuceSEA is designed to accomplish both. Examples of past Luce-supported work with relevance to LuceSEA can be found here. These examples also highlight LuceSEA’s third area of emphasis—collaboration.

Collaborations and Networks: Today’s challenges and opportunities call for partnerships and resource sharing, particularly at a time when institutions are facing financial constraints. LuceSEA invites applicants to envision new configurations, alignments, networks and strategies for coordinating training and the production of knowledge relevant to SEA that both enrich and reach beyond the traditional area studies framework, and contribute not only to the growth of individual institutional programs but also to the overall strengthening of the SEA field. Applicants are encouraged to include an element of collaboration in proposals. “Collaboration” is defined broadly to encompass intra-campus or multi-institutional work, or both, across disciplines, departments and administrative divisions. It can involve partnerships in the United States and/or SEA and other parts of the world, with academic institutions, including community colleges and liberal arts colleges, as well as non-academic constituencies including media, policy, activist and arts communities.


The LuceSEA competition is expected to take place annually over at least five years. For each annual round of the competition, up to $3 million will be allocated from funds available to the Asia Program. The highest available award will be $1.5 million.

The Foundation anticipates that LuceSEA will, in general, award a small number of larger grants rather than many smaller grants. The actual number and size of grants to be recommended will depend on the quality of the proposals received and the resources available to the Asia Program.

Approved grants will typically fund projects that can be completed within three to five years.

Grants may fund a wide range of possible activities, including, but not limited to:

  • Seed funding for faculty positions
  • Student scholarships and fellowships, including for language training
  • Visiting scholars and other types of exchange
  • Curriculum development
  • Research (including collaborative research) and travel
  • Field schools and other field-based activities
  • Convenings, including conferences, seminars and workshops
  • Development and dissemination of library, archival, research and pedagogical resources, including digital resources
  • Project management
  • Evaluation of grant-supported activities

Grants are intended to complement, not to duplicate or replace, other existing sources of support, including Title VI funding for those that
receive it.

Please also see Additional Information for Applicants below.


Applications for consideration must be submitted through the Foundation’s online portal, beginning with a letter of inquiry (LOI). The LOI should include a description of the planning toward a proposal that has taken place to date and major project components. Following LOI review, which may include a site visit, the Foundation will issue invitations to submit full proposals via the online portal.

Applications must address at least one of the three elements of LuceSEA emphasis—innovation, scholarly infrastructure and collaboration. To be considered for a grant of $1 million or more, a proposal should include all three elements of LuceSEA emphasis. In addition, for a grant of $1 million or more, the LOI must demonstrate that substantial planning toward a proposal has already taken place.

Only one application per institution per round of competition is allowed, and only one grant per institution will be awarded during the life of LuceSEA. The exception to this rule is for institutions that serve as a sponsor for an entity without separate legal status, such as SEASSI or CORMOSEA. Grant recipients may participate as a partner on a project initiated and led by another institution.

Additional Information for Applicants

Time Frame: Proposed projects may cover pre-historic to contemporary periods.

Faculty Positions: Grant funds can be applied toward a new tenured or tenure-track faculty position. The faculty position can be in any field or discipline, including language teaching positions, and can include comparative, interdisciplinary and/or transnational approaches but must be grounded in SEA and involve significant teaching and research with relevance to SEA.

The maximum amount of a grant available to cover salary, benefits and funds for research and travel for the faculty position will be $600,000, for up to a five-year period. Grant funds may not be used to endow a faculty position. Proposals must include evidence of institutional commitment to the position in the form of letters of support from senior administrators and department chairs, and a commitment by the institution to continue funding for the line after conclusion of the grant.

Proposals should include a job description, demonstrate that a suitable pool of candidates exists, and describe how the hire would be integrated with the institution’s long-term vision for SEA-focused work. If the position will be a joint appointment, the proposal should include a plan on how responsibilities will be divided between departments so as not to overly burden a junior hire.

Visiting Scholars: Proposals may request support for visiting scholars, including young faculty and recent PhDs, to foster exchange and bring in new expertise and perspectives for teaching and/or research. A proposal should explain how the addition of the visiting scholar will enhance the program being proposed, and should include a plan for integrating the visitor into the institution’s SEA-focused activities.

Student Engagement: Applicants are encouraged to incentivize student engagement at the undergraduate and graduate levels in order to attract and cultivate next-generation leaders conversant with SEA who are well-qualified to pursue careers in academic and non-academic fields and advocate for strong U.S.-SEA relations.

Language: LuceSEA welcomes proposals that enhance instruction in Southeast Asian languages. Grant funds may be used, for example, to incentivize language study or offer additional levels of instruction, or for professional development for language instructors. They may supplement the salary and benefits of a language instructor position, provided the institution commits to continuing the position following the grant’s conclusion. Proposed uses of grant funds should reinforce and complement, and may not replace, existing funding for language training available from Title VI and other sources. In keeping with LuceSEA emphases, priority will be given to requests that propose innovative approaches and collaborative strategies for SEA language instruction.

Institutional Commitment: Conducting collaborative and interdisciplinary work within the usual institutional structures can be challenging and requires administrative support at all levels, from president to department chairs. Grants will provide funding to aid in catalyzing this work. Proposals must include evidence of institutional commitment in the form of letters of endorsement from senior administrators, including relevant department chairs and unit heads, and must address how the proposed program and activities will align with the institution’s strategic plan and be made part of the academic structure, including the institutional reward and promotion system. Applicants must address how proposed activities will be integrated with the institution’s long-term vision for SEA-focused work; how such activities will contribute to the field’s overall vitality and effectiveness; how the project will be evaluated; and how supported work will be institutionalized and sustained beyond the life of the grant. “Sustainability” beyond the grant can take a variety of forms, from the commitment to permanency of a new faculty position, to evidence of curricular change, to the creation of scholarly and pedagogical resources, to training efforts that will be carried forward in the lives and careers of students.

Although there are no formal matching requirements, the Foundation will give priority to institutions that provide financial and in-kind cost-share for the proposed activities. Evidence of institutional commitment might include, but is not limited to, course release and/or summer salary for participating faculty; teaching credit for co-taught courses; support for or subsidy of student tuition; the provision of graduate student fellowships; allowance of cross-registration and transfer of credit for students from collaborating institutions; ongoing commitment to language teaching positions; the provision of office space for visiting scholars; and the reduction or waiver of indirect costs. The Foundation also welcomes evidence of support from other external sources.

Indirect Costs: A maximum of ten percent indirect costs is allowed. Any indirect costs must be included in the total amount requested.

Evaluation: Proposals should include an evaluation plan detailing (1) baseline factors relevant to the goals of the project at the time of the application; (2) a discussion of how the proposed activities are expected to advance the project goals and effect change; and (3) a description of how change will be tracked/measured, including identification of benchmarks of progress. Proposals may include a request of up to four percent of the total budget for evaluation. At the time of the award, grant recipients may also be asked by the Foundation to track specific data items.

Additional Eligibility Requirement for Applicants from SEA: Southeast Asian institutions must demonstrate non-profit status acceptable to the United States Internal Revenue Service. This can be accomplished through certification by NGOSource. During the proposal review stage, as necessary, the Foundation will inform applicants about the steps required for obtaining certification.

A Closing Note on the Guidelines: The examples set forth in these guidelines are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be overly prescriptive. Because this is the first year of a new initiative, the Foundation is interested in the range of ideas and approaches LuceSEA will inspire. Based on the response, the Foundation may revise the guidelines for future rounds of the competition.

Application Calendar

September 14, 2018 - Portal to submit LOIs opens at 9:00 AM EST
October 29, 2018 - LOI must be submitted online by 5:00 PM EST
January 18, 2019 - Invited institutions must submit full proposals online
              by 11:59 PM EST
June 7, 2019 - Awards announced

Start the Application Process

Review Process and Selection Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated by a committee of advisors with relevant expertise who will make recommendations to the Foundation. The Foundation will make the final determination on awards.

Projects will be judged on the basis of intellectual quality, creativity, feasibility and evidence of institutional commitment. In addition, the decisions of the advisory committee and the Foundation will be guided by: (1) a project’s ability to address the goals of the initiative; (2) the relationship of proposed activities to the three major LuceSEA emphases; (3) the strength of the proposal’s articulation of project goals and methodology; and (4) potential for impact beyond the life of the grant.

For questions or additional information, please contact:

Helena Kolenda, Program Director for Asia
Henry Luce Foundation
51 Madison Avenue, 30th Floor, New York, NY 10010
Tel: 212-489-7700
Fax: 212-581-9541

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Application Guidelines