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 Interdisciplinary Chairs are made possible through a gift from William (B ’92) and Karen Sonneborn to support interdisciplinary research, intra-institutional collaboration, and the engagement of students in interdisciplinary research on the world’s greatest challenges. 

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. At least one faculty member of the team must have a primary appointment on Main Campus. 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. In 2023, at least one pair (or team) will be named the Sonneborn Chair.

Selection Criteria

  • Demonstrated faculty research excellence jointly achieved through collaborative work, involving at least two Georgetown faculty in different fields within and across schools and campuses.  
  • Preference will be given to faculty collaborations that have a track record of productivity, including published products, as well as  demonstrated interest in providing mentored learning opportunities for students that further connect the education and research missions.
  • Priority is given to faculty who create opportunities to engage students’ education with mentored research and learning opportunities (undergraduate and graduate)(inside and outside the classroom).  
  • 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 up to $150,000 (avg. $50,000 per year, per submitted plans and budget), to be spent on their mutual work, including (and especially) expanding their ability to integrate students into their research.


Nominations are due no later than Sept. 15. 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 co-endorsement may consist of a signature to the nomination letter. 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. In particular, please indicate what activities would be possible with the Chair that may not otherwise be possible. (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 in collaboration with the Vice President of Interdisciplinary Initiatives will provide  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.  

The Nominating packet should be sent to Vice President of Interdisciplinary Initiatives Soyica Diggs Colbert, sdc71@georgetown.edu (Subj: Sonneborn Chairs).For more information, please contact, Soyica Diggs Colbert, sdc71@georgetown.edu (Subj: Sonneborn Chairs).

2020 William and Karen Sonneborn Chair for Interdisciplinary Collaboration Award Winners