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Joan Schafer Research Faculty Award in Sport, Fitness, and Disability


The Joan Schafer Research Faculty Award in Sport, Fitness, and Disability, established in 2015, supports projects investigating how living with any type of disability influences access to, and participation in, sport and physical activity. Projects that have real world application through interventions in public health or clinic-based settings are a top funding priority. This grant has a special interest in intervention research of all kinds, including challenges and solutions related to transitioning to civilian life from military service. 

Support may be requested for individual activities, such as research assistance, research-related travel, or research materials.  We support collaborative projects, pilot studies or initial research efforts. Providing funds for new and emerging work with potential for further research and dissemination is a priority for this program. Applications are accepted from all academic disciplines.

The Joan Schafer Research Faculty Award in Sport, Fitness, and Disability is named for Joan Schafer, who worked throughout her life as a community volunteer, activist, and disability advocate in Michigan. 


Next Deadline: The current cycle is closed. Please check back in the 2024-25 academic year for updates.


Project funds may be requested up to $10,000, depending on the scope of the project.  We encourage applications from those seeking matching funds for grants from other sources, up to the $10,000 limit. 


IRWG affiliated tenure-track, non-tenure track, emeritus faculty; clinical faculty; research faculty; and librarians at the University of Michigan (all campuses) are eligible. Applicants are encouraged to include students in project plans, but the principal investigator may not be a student or postdoctoral fellow. 

Become an IRWG Affiliate


Your proposal will need to include the following information:

  1. Project title
  2. Lead applicant and collaborator(s)
  3. Project Abstract - Please provide a 100-word summary that can be used on the IRWG website and in other reporting and publicity documents.
  4. Project Narrative - In no more than four pages, describe 
    1. Goals of the project
    2. How the study findings can be translated for real-world impact.
    3. Plan for conducting the project
    4. Role of any collaborators on the project
    5. Project Deliverables/Dissemination Plan: This may include journal articles, a book project, performance/s, community events, etc. 
    6. Future Research Plans: Explain how the grant would contribute to future research agendas and/or become sustainable (e.g. does it establish new partnerships, offer proof of concept data, provide training of junior scholars, lead to external funding applications, have the potential to scale, etc.)
  5. Budget 
    1. Amount requested
    2. ​Outline budget expenses, including justification
    3. Specify contingency budgets
    4. Any salary expenses must include appropriate calculation of benefits
    5. Please note that faculty salary will not be funded
  6. Curriculum vitae for all collaborators on the project
  7. Funding received from IRWG in the past five years by any of the collaborators

Selection Criteria:

Reviewers will score the applications based on these criteria: 1) Addressing and understanding real world problem and/or solution; 2) Quality and significance of the scholarly or creative activity proposed; 3) Centrality of research on an aspect of physical disability; 4) Inclusion of appropriate attention to issues of gender; 5) Contribution of the project to the University of Michigan (in terms of scholarly, training, or curricular influence, or external funding, etc.); and 6) Plans for moving the project to the next phase of research or translation.

Answering the following questions before preparing your proposal will strengthen it: 

1) In what ways will this project inform real world issues in disabilities, gender, and sport, physical activity and/or fitness? (Please note in the application your plans to understand your findings in terms of how they can be used to create new insights for real world application, interventions, policy, activism, etc.) 2) How might you be addressing disability, gender, in your project design? 3) How will your project help to develop your career or the careers of any students working on the project? 4) How will your work contribute to the study of helping people with disabilities become more physically active or participate in sport? 5) What concrete outcomes and next steps will result from your work? 

Human Subjects Review:

Compliance with all appropriate regulations governing conduct of research will be required. Research proposals involving the use of human subjects will be subject to project review and approval by the appropriate IRB. It is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain IRB approval in a timely manner so that research is not delayed.

Post-Award Expectations:

  • Acknowledge this IRWG grant award in all presentations and publications resulting from the funded project.
  • Inform IRWG staff of resulting funding, presentations and publications for publicity purposes.
  • If awarded the Joan Schafer Research Faculty Award in Sport, Fitness, and Disability, you agree to
    • provide a written report within one year of your first expenditure outlining your project activities and financial accounting. Please also indicate at this time what subsequent actions, products, or steps (e.g. extramural grant submission) you have taken, or plan to take, as a result of this award.
    • serve as a reviewer for future applications of this award.
    • present your findings at IRWG if requested.

Publicity Consent:

Please acknowledge that you approve the use of your project title and abstract for use in IRWG publicity and reports, including, but not limited to listings on the IRWG website, annual report, press releases, newsletters, and social media. We are also very happy to help you disseminate your findings from this project.


Please contact Michelle Segar, Director of IRWG’s Sustainable Health Activities Research Program at fitness@umich.edu.


Past Recipients:

2020 – Philippa Clarke, Research Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research and Professor, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, and Michelle Meade, Associate Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Adapted Yoga for People Aging with Spinal Cord Injury.

2020 – Melissa J. Tinney, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System; Kimberly Casten, M.D., M.Phil., Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Claire Kalpakjian, Ph.D.,M.S., Associate Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Experiences of Female Veterans in Adaptive Sports.

2017 – Zhiying Ma, Assistant Professor in the U-M Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan. Experiences with Sport and Physical Activities Among Young Women with Physical Disabilities in China.

2016 – Petra Kuppers, Professor of English, Art and Design, Theatre and Drama, and Women’s Studies. Water-Based Movement Training: A Disabled Woman’s Journey.