William and Karen Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration


Vision and Opportunity

The William and Karen Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration was created for the purpose of incentivizing interdisciplinary collaboration, internally, among Georgetown University faculty, and to expand the ways that students (both undergraduate and graduate) can be meaningfully engaged in their interdisciplinary research. 

The Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration uniquely connects faculty excellence with institutional and educational transformation. The dually-awarded Chairs will reward boundary-crossing activity and faculty who have been working  together as a team, in integrative ways and building networks across the campus and with the community (locally and globally).   

The “term chair” is to be jointly held (for a three-year term) by at least two faculty with a track record of collaborating on joint research and who want to extend and expand their collaborations into the future. The William and Karen Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration will provide recognition, funds and other support to advance their collaborative and innovative work in interdisciplinary research and mentored student learning.  

Selection Process and Terms

Nominations for William and Karen Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration will be reviewed by a faculty panel that will make a recommendation to the Provost, based on colleague nominations and applications that fit the criteria.  Selections will be made initially for a three-year term chair to be held by two collaborating faculty at the same time. The term may be extended based on progress, results, and impact during the first term. In 2020, one pair (or team) will be named the inaugural Sonneborn Chair.

Selection Criteria

  • Demonstrated faculty research excellence jointly achieved through collaborative work, involving at least two Georgetown faculty in different fields.  
  • Collaborations should focus on research and mentored learning opportunities (inside and outside the classroom).  Priority is given to faculty who create opportunities to engage students’ education with research opportunities (undergraduate and graduate).
  • Preference will be given to faculty collaborations that have a track record of published products and demonstrated interest in new mentored learning opportunities that further connect the education and research missions.
  • Preference will be given to faculty collaborations that create opportunities for diverse undergraduate and graduate students, including first-generation and low-income students. 
  • The Chair will be awarded to at least two faculty, although they might be awarded to 3 faculty (with the same amount of shared grant funding spread among them).

Recognition and Award

The two faculty chairs will each be designated the William and Karen Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration in… (in the name of interdisciplinary field). Each will receive a $10,000 annual stipend for the duration of the three-year term; together, they will receive an internal grant of $150,000 (avg. $50,000 per year), to be spent on their mutual work, including expanding their ability to integrate students into their research.


Nominations are due no later than April 20. Nominations should be co-endorsed by the deans, and appropriate chairs or area coordinators, for both (or all) faculty members of the collaborating team. The application packet should include:

  • A nominating letter (3-page max.). 
  • A single statement of intent from the faculty pair (or team) on the history and future of the collaboration (3-page max.).
  • CV’s from the faculty, highlighting any joint scholarly work and products that have emerged from the collaboration. 

Supporting the Chairs

A distinctive feature of this proposal is the connection between faculty research excellence and educational transformation, potentially through new forms of credit-bearing mentored research or new field-based or lab-based “course” structures. In order to support this vision, the Sonneborn Chair holders may draw on structural and staff support from the Designing the Future(s) Initiative (“Red House”). The Red House will provide the primary support for the holders of the Sonneborn Chair, playing a connecting role, and brokering other support such as, through CNDLS, UIS, or other campus units.  

For more information, please contact provost@georgetown.edu (Subj: Sonneborn Chairs, attn.: Tammi Damas). 

2020 William and Karen Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration Award Winners