Speaker Event Grants


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Requests for speaker funding may be made by the following UW System individuals and entities:

  • Chancellors and deans;
  • Academic/administrative departments;
  • Faculty and researchers;
  • Programs, centers, and institutes; and
  • University student organizations*

*Student organizations at a UW System school wishing to bring in a speaker must collaborate and work with one of the other entities listed above. That entity (or entities) will serve as the fiscal agent for the award pursuant to campus policies and procedures. The Thompson Center is not allowed to transfer funds to student organizations directly. Student groups seeking to apply for speaker funds must find an appropriate sponsor—a parent organization or a campus department, unit, or center—willing to handle the fiscal processing of expenses associated with the speaker event. Student organizations with questions or concerns about sponsorship should contact the Thompson Center at thompsoncenter@wisc.edu.

Because numerous departments and programs have significant shared interests, applicants may collaborate in funding requests and may also share the costs of speakers with other entities.

The Center disfavors applications to fund speakers who have already been scheduled and for which funding has already been planned for, secured, and/or allocated.


The application period for the 2024-2025 academic year will open Wednesday, March 6, 2024. The deadline to apply is Friday, May 17, 2024, at 5:00 pm CDT. Applications should be made for events to take place the following fiscal year (July 1, 2024–June 30, 2025). All awards are contingent on the availability of speaker funds in the fiscal year for which they applied.

The Center will consider off-cycle applications as funds are available. To file an off-cycle application, follow all the guidelines listed on this page. Note in the subject line of the email and the cover letter of the paper copy that the application is “off-cycle.”

Requirements and Subject Matter

Funds are only permissible for speaker(s) events that are free and open to the public. Speaker events must take place outside a regularly scheduled class or departmental forum, and must be well-publicized both within the UW campus as well as to the broader community, consistent with the Wisconsin Idea. The Center will not award funding solely to support a guest lecturer for a university course.

Proposed speakers must bring timely political and policy issues to the attention of larger audiences and must foster public debate about critical issues regarding effective public leadership. Speakers relating to the Thompson Center’s current focus topics will be evaluated with particular interest:

State and Local Government Interaction

The structure of each level of government and their interaction are essential to good governance. We seek proposals that address issues which include, but are not limited to: 
•  Intergovernmental cooperation, the balance of power, fiscal relationships, and the consolidation of services
•  Governmental responsiveness, engagement, and accountability
•  The effect of institutional design on political, technological, labor market, and environmental challenges

Overcoming Learning Loss and Current Challenges in Education

Educational issues including absenteeism, summer learning loss, school closures, and the voucher system have long impacted schools in Wisconsin, but the current pandemic has resulted in stagnation and learning loss at unprecedented levels. We seek proposals addressing these and all related issues, including but not limited to:
 •  The impact of recent initiatives and other federal, state, and local programs
 •  Targeted support programs engaging the community in public/private partnership programs
 •  The effect of institutional and instructional design on student success
 •  Addressing a student’s physical and emotional needs, to motivate and engage students and families in learning
 •  The role of school boards and community leadership in recovering from learning loss

Challenges Facing Rural Communities in Wisconsin

Compared to other states, Wisconsin has a fairly high proportion of rural to urban communities. This gives rise to an interdependent series of issues, based on the connection and dependence of these communities on each other for their continued support and development. We seek proposals that address issues which include, but are not limited to:
 •  Ensuring all Wisconsinites have access to high-quality medical care, education, financial services, and legal services
 •  Meeting the infrastructure and service needs of rural communities, such as roads and high-speed internet
 •  Employment, entrepreneurship, financial security, and economic growth
 •  Staffing and other difficulties imperiling community-based volunteer emergency services

Health Systems in Public Emergencies

The COVID pandemic exposed the fragility of healthcare providers on many levels. We seek proposals that address issues which include, but are not limited to:
 •  Ensuring the efficient functioning of healthcare systems in the face of financial and medical uncertainties
 •  Robustness of healthcare services to changes in demand and labor market in times of public emergency

Application Materials

Applications should be no more than 3 pages in length (single-spaced), 12-point font, with a minimum of one-inch margins, and page numbers centered at the bottom of the page. Applications must include:

  1. The name and title of the person filing the application;
  2. The name and curriculum vitae/biography of the speaker(s) for which funding is sought. The curriculum vitae/biography does not count towards the 3 page maximum. The curriculum vitae should provide evidence of the speaker’s qualifications and professional standing, such as the speaker’s educational and/or professional background, authored publications, exhibitions, films, awards received, or other pertinent works or achievements;
  3. The title of the proposed event;
  4. A one paragraph summary of the proposed event;
  5. A one to two paragraph discussion of why the particular speaker is desired;
  6. The campus, department or entity (and, if known, the building and room) that will host the speaker, along with a discussion of the campus’s ability to host the speaker smoothly and safely. To increase access to the public, we ask that all in-person events include a livestream and recording to watch later (if speaker permission is granted). The campus may provide an online platform or the Thompson Center can provide a platform if needed;
  7. The target audience for the speaker;
  8. Potential event date/dates;
  9. A publicity plan;
    1. If your request is an on cycle request and is selected, a 1920×1080 graphic will need to be provided to the Thompson Center at least 6 weeks in advance of the program so we can add to our events calendar.
  10. A budget delineating estimated event costs including costs to livestream. Please be sure to coordinate the review of this budget with your campus financial, budget or research office representative, as applicable (see 16).
  11. A list of any other sources of funding (either granted or applied for) that would support the proposed speaker(s);
  12. A note indicating whether the requester, or any other entities with whom the requester is affiliated, has received funding from the Thompson Center in the past. Previous funding does not disqualify future consideration;
  13. Identification of which campus entity will serve as the fiscal agent and a contact for that entity;
  14. For international speakers, evidence that all visa documents and other travel papers are completely in order; and
  15. A signed statement from the requester that the information contained in the request is accurate to the best of his or her knowledge.
  16. A signature from a campus financial, budget or research office representative that the budget is acceptable (as applicable on your campus).

Submit an Application

Applications must be emailed to thompsoncenter@wisc.edu. Subject line should read UW-(Campus) Speaker Grant Application. The deadline for application submissions Friday, May 17, 2024, at 5:00 pm CDT.

While no automated response will be generated, an acknowledgment of application submission will be forthcoming within 24 hours or by the end of the next business day. If you do not receive an acknowledgment via email, please resubmit your application materials or feel free to call us at 608-265-4087 between 8:00am and 4:30pm.


Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 36.68(5), the seven-person Public Leadership Board determines how to allocate speaker funds. The Board does so by simple majority rule voting. Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 990.001(8m), four members of the Board make a quorum.

The Board itself does not initiate speaker arrangements through this process. Rather, it receives and acts on requests from eligible entities that are interested in inviting speakers.

Scheduling Speakers

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The event must be held at a location on or near campus that is easily accessible to the general audience, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and open to the public without charge. If the event must be held virtually, the event must be held on a platform that is free and accessible to the public.

Maximizing Attendance

Campus’ receiving funding for speakers should schedule those events so as to maximize attendance. When selecting a speaker’s date, applicants should give careful consideration to cycles in the university’s academic calendar and events in the community.


If the date, time, budget, lineup, and/or location of an event must be changed from what the Center approves, a written request and justification for the change must be submitted to the Center Director. The Director may approve or deny such a request electronically, telephonically, or otherwise without a full in-person meeting. If the Center withdraws its support of the event, the sponsoring unit(s) will bear the full financial responsibility for its costs.

Campus Responsibilities

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The campus is responsible for ensuring UW System and campus policies and procedures are fully adhered to in arranging the event. The campus is responsible for making any needed travel arrangements to bring the speaker(s) to campus and all logistics associated with the event itself. Funds must be expended within the fiscal year in which they are awarded.

Special Arrangements, Travel, Hotel, and Meal Expenses

The Center recognizes that some speakers may require accommodations in travel, lodging, or presentations due to health conditions or other physical limitations. If your speaker requires such accommodations, please state the accommodation and the reason the accommodation is required in the budget of estimated costs.

Lodging, travel, and meal expenses for speakers must adhere to UW travel requirements in place at the time of booking. Campus’ should refer to UW System policies laid out here, as well as to any additional campus-specific requirements.

While the Board’s policy is to grant a one-day hotel/meal allowance, if the speaker provides other services of a public (i.e., university-wide) nature on another day, the campus may request additional hotel/meal allowance expenses. In such cases, the applicant must detail and fully justify the request for additional amount.

International Speakers

Applicants that wish to invite international speakers to the campus should be advised that such speakers are covered by special federal laws related to travel and immigration documentation, payments that can be made by the state or university, and the speaker’s U.S. tax liability.

An international speaker’s visa class dictates the individual’s eligibility to receive payment for speaking engagements and to receive reimbursement for travel expenses; therefore, it is critical that the speaker obtain an appropriate visa. Some visas do not cover honorariums.

It is the campus’ responsibility to ensure all visa and related documents are compiled accurately. The Thompson Center accepts no responsibility for facilitating international travelers and reserves the right to withdraw its support for an international speaker if all visa and related documents are not in order.


The campus is responsible for publicizing the event with sufficient notice to ensure interested audiences have the ability to plan ahead to attend. Campus’ should strive to engage with policymakers in the relevant branches of government regarding the speech, disseminating invitations to the event as broadly as possible.

The campus must include advertising costs in the proposed budget. A publicity plan must be submitted prior to the event describing efforts to maximize attendance. The Thompson Center’s support of the lecture should be noted on all publicity, along with its logo, which can be obtained by contacting the Thompson Center at thompsoncenter@wisc.edu.

The Thompson Center will support the campus with publicity but adding the provided 1920×1080 graphic to our Events Calendar, and promote to our email list and social media. All other publicity is the responsibility of the campus.


Wherever possible with speaker permission, sponsors should  livestream and record the event for later viewing to be posted on the Thompson Center YouTube channel and website. Contact thompsoncenter@wisc.edu with any questions.


Within 30 calendar days after the speaking engagement, the campus must submit an attendance report, photographs from the event, event recording, and a summary of the event to the Center for posting on the Center’s website.


Please review our Frequently Asked Questions

Please direct all other questions to thompsoncenter@wisc.edu or 608-265-4087.