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Scholars in Service Program

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Application  |  FAQs  |  About Stanford Impact Labs

Scholars in Service is a pilot program of Stanford Impact Labs in partnership with the Haas Center for Public Service.

This program (previously called Leaves in Service) is intended to complement and extend existing leave and sabbatical opportunities at Stanford with a primary focus on the exchange of learning and expertise around an identified social problem. Financial and staff resources will be provided to support placements, for a minimum of one quarter and up to four quarters, in public sector agencies and nonprofit organizations. 

Placements are designed to support in-depth, hands-on learning about a social problem and existing approaches to address it, with the potential to help generate new research insights and/or research applications. The ideal placement will enable the exchange of complementary skills and expertise, and should both add value to the hosting organization and help to advance the faculty member’s thinking about his/her own research. Applicants can identify and negotiate their own partnerships, or work with the Stanford Impact Labs and Haas Center team to identify an appropriate placement. 

To apply, please visit the Seed Funding page. Applications are due January 11, 2021.  

Financial resources

We will provide funding for a minimum of one quarter and up to four quarters of leave for salary replacement and benefits, as needed. We may also cover, with pre-approval, associated direct costs, which may include travel, temporary housing, and/or office and field resources. 

Staff resources

Our team can help to identify credible and realistic partner organizations for placements when the applicant does not already have a specific placement in mind. For all finalists, we will review, vet, and work with the potential host organization to ensure they are a good fit for the purposes of the Scholars in Service program and faculty's interests, and will provide ongoing support in preparation and for the duration of the leave to promote positive experiences and outcomes.


PI-eligible Stanford scholars may apply. Leave eligibility will vary across schools and departments and depend on the status of the individual applicant.

​For all circumstances, applicants will need to explore the feasibility and logistics of taking leave within their respective schools/departments, and placements will only be confirmed with the consent of the respective department Chair and school Dean. Interested applicants are encouraged to review the Faculty Handbook section on Sabbaticals and Other Leaves of Absence.


For questions associated with the Scholars in Service program, please contact Stanford Impact Labs Lead Karina Kloos.



We expect that applicants will have varying levels of experience with problem-focused research and engagement with external partners and potential host organizations. For those newer to this type of engagement, the placement may serve primarily as a learning exchange, helping to better understand the social problem and different approaches to its resolution, with the host organization benefiting from the faculty member’s scholarly expertise. For those with prior experience, the exchange may serve to advance existing partnerships, with a focus on driving evidence-driven programs or policies. What is most important is that there is a compelling case that the placement is generative, with clear learning opportunities for both the applicant and host organization, and the potential to contribute towards progress on a social problem.

Applicants should be able to clearly articulate their intentions and goals for the leave, including:

  • How the Scholars in Service experience will enhance the applicant’s own understanding of a social problem and advance their research agenda
  • The anticipated ways in which the placement will benefit the partner organization
  • How the partnership and exchange can contribute positively towards progress on a well-defined social problem

In addition, competitive applicants will:

  • Demonstrate a commitment to both scholarly research and public service
  • Exhibit curiosity, humility, and a learning mindset
  • Recognize and appreciate the complementary expertise of hosting institutions
  • Communicate clearly the opportunities for learning and exchange

Application Process & Timeline

  • A short application will be due January 11, 2021
  • Those advancing will be invited to interview in late-January
  • Preliminary selections will be made the first week of February
  • Following a final screening of the host organization and candidate, including approval on all logistical matters from the respective department/school, and approval of the proposed scope of work in coordination with the host organization, final awards will be announced on a rolling basis in February and March
  • Placements may begin as early as June 2021 and extend through September 2022

Information Sessions

More information about the Scholars in Service program will be provided on: 

  • November 12, 12-1pm, Register here
  • November 17, 12-1pm, Register here


For questions associated with the Scholars in Service Program, please contact Stanford Impact Labs Partnerships Lead, Karina Kloos.

Apply now

Frequently Asked Questions

What does ‘success’ look like?

Outcomes of the leave experience will vary, depending on the specific applicant and placement, but ‘success’ is generally envisioned as the extent to which the leave placement positively contributes towards:

  • Deeper contextual understanding of a social problem: this opportunity should allow for more awareness about the problem, including the more operational aspects of addressing it, such as who are the key stakeholders and what are the relevant policies and programs affecting the current status of and potential solutions to the social problem.
  • New research insights and partnerships: the experience, including the immersive interaction with individuals and teams at the host organization, should generate new research insights for both the faculty member and organization, and may contribute towards a longer-term research partnership.
  • Benefits to the host organization: the placement should offer meaningful service to the host organization, allowing them to benefit from the faculty member’s research expertise, possibly generating evidence-based, innovative approaches, and ultimately helping to advance objectives within the organization.
  • Positive public impact: in achieving the above, both the faculty member and host organization are better positioned to make tractable progress on solutions to an identified social problem.

How is this different from other leave and sabbatical programs at Stanford? 

The primary objectives of this leave program are to support your learning to develop a better understanding of the context in which your research applies, and the exchange of expertise between you and practitioners. The leave should also help advance scientific insights and the development of your research (e.g. generating new research questions and hypotheses; better understanding causal mechanisms and practical barriers that prevent certain outcomes from materializing; exploring new datasets or developing new survey instruments). However, it is not intended to advance your own research solely for academic purposes. The focus, instead, is on supporting experiences that generate learning and research to advance solutions to social problems.  

Are there specific social issues that will be prioritized over others?

We are problem agnostic, meaning that we do not have priors on which issues should be addressed over others, but the social problem being addressed should clearly relate to the applicant’s own expertise and research.

Are there specific disciplines that are eligible or will be prioritized over others?

This program is available to PI-eligible faculty, researchers, and educators across all schools and departments. 

How do I know if I’m eligible to take leave?

PI-eligible faculty, researchers, and educators may apply fo the program. Please consult with your department or school if you are unclear about your status.

For all circumstances, applicants will need to explore the feasibility and logistics of taking leave within their respective schools/departments, and placements will only be confirmed with the consent of the respective department Chair and Dean. Applicants should consult the Faculty Handbook section on Sabbaticals and Other Leaves of Absence for more information about university leave.

Do I need to have earned sabbatical credit to apply?

No, it is not required to apply earned sabbatical credits for this opportunity. However, applicants that propose to use earned sabbatical credit to cover some portion of the proposed leave may be able to extend the duration of their leave.

For how long is the leave placement?

Resources are available for a minimum of one and maximum of four quarters of leave support, during the summer or academic calendar, depending on the request and rationale proposed by the applicant. 

May I take part-time leave?

The spirit of the Leaves-in-Service program is intended to support full-time leaves to allow for immersive experiences that also protect faculty from other demands on their time that may detract from the intention of the leave. However, on a case-by-case basis, alternative forms of leave may be considered, especially given the unknown circumstances around COVID-19 that require remote learning and exchange. 

How much funding support will I receive?

Specific funding amounts will vary depending on circumstances and need, but all awardees are eligible to receive funding support, as needed, to cover (but not exceed) any salary gaps corresponding with the duration of the leave. Fringe benefits will be covered on an as-needed basis. Recipients are also eligible to receive pre-approved funding support for direct costs (e.g. travel, temporary housing, office/field resources). 

What other kinds of support can I expect to receive from Stanford Impact Labs staff?

The Stanford Impact Labs and Haas Center team will support the search for host organizations, as needed. For all awardees – those with and without pre-identified partners – Stanford Impact Labs and Haas Center team will support outreach, vetting, and navigation of logistics with the potential host organization (HR, legal compliance, etc.), as well as preparation strategies and tools to promote the best possible experiences and outcomes for faculty and practitioners. 

Do I need to have a potential host organization already identified?

Not necessarily. You may already have a specific organization in mind, or you can request support for identifying and engaging with an organization that is most likely to be the best fit for your leave purposes. 

What is the application, review, and placement timeline?

  • A short application is due January 11, 2021
  • Those advancing will be invited to interview in late January
  • Following a final screening of the host organization and candidate, including approval of all logistic-related matters from her/his department/school, final decisions will be made by the end of February
  • Placements may begin as early as June 2021 and extend through September 2022

How exactly will the application and review process unfold?

  • Stage 1: Submission of short written application. A panel will review all applications and select a subset of candidates to continue to the interview stage based on clarity of eligibility and fit for the program, and compelling persuasion of proposed value add to applicant, envisioned host organization, and public benefit. 
  • Stage 2: Interviews & preliminary selections. Candidates moving to this stage will be interviewed by a panel consisting of faculty and staff from Stanford Impact Labs, the Haas Center, and external practitioners. Candidates will be reviewed on an individually competitive basis with additional consideration given to the overall composition of social problem topics, proposed placement areas, and diversity across schools/departments. 
  • Stage 3: Final review & vetting process. Before final awards are made, Stanford Impact Labs and Haas Center team will work with the applicant to ensure that s/he meets all the criteria as stipulated by her/his department and school to take leave, and is compliant with all university policies. The team will also work to identify placements, as needed, and vet all potential host organizations. Once confirmed, the applicant and host organization will co-develop a proposed scope of work, to be reviewed for final consideration. 
  • Stage 4: Awards. On a rolling basis throughout February and March, final candidates will be notified of final award status.

What are the reporting expectations?

Awardees will meet with the Stanford Impact Labs and Haas team to discuss the goals of the placement and map out key areas of support with a plan of action for tracking progress. All participants will be expected to have regular check-ins on progress (frequency depends on length of leave) and provide an end-of-term report, narrating the high-level activities and outcomes of the leave, including how it contributed toward the progress of the host organization, the applicants’ own research objectives, and both short-term and anticipated longer-term public outcome benefits.

How does this program fit with the Stanford vision of “purposeful engagement”?

In spring 2019, President Tessier-Lavigne announced the core elements of the university’s new strategic plan. This includes a commitment to launch Stanford Impact Labs (previously Social X-Change), a university-wide initiative enabling teams of Stanford scholars to work with the public, social, and private sectors to address social problems using human creativity, rigorous evidence, and innovative technology. Its mission is to catalyze problem-focused research and training on a diversity of social problems with the goal of achieving broad public impact. The Scholars in Service program is a pilot program of Stanford Impact Labs, in partnership with Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service. 

About Stanford Impact Labs


Stanford Impact Labs enables teams of Stanford scholars to work with the public, social, and private sectors to tackle social problems using human creativity, rigorous evidence, and innovative technology. We advance this mission by supporting rigorous, problem-focused research and learning opportunities across a diversity of social problems with the goal of achieving broad public impact.

Social Problems

We define a “social problem” as a challenge that: has collective, rather than solely individual, implications; affects a large number of people; has a number of complex and interrelated causes; reflects a failure of markets, governments, and other institutions; and cannot be understood or solved without an understanding of the human behaviors, institutions, and systems involved.

Problem-Focused Research

Our focus is on addressing concrete, social problems through research that leverages theoretical advances and methodological innovations to drive the discovery and testing of practical, evidence-based solutions. This often requires an iterative mix of problem exploration, design of possible solutions, evaluation of the effects of attempted solutions, and considerations of scaling-up solutions.


Our approach is rooted in partnership. Through our programs, we seek to spur and strengthen the process of learning, exchange, and co-creation between researchers and practitioners to jointly frame problems, develop research and learning agendas, generate and test hypotheses, iterate on intervention strategies, and scale solutions. These partnerships are foundational to the process of leveraging scientific discovery to drive social change. 

Areas & Methods of Focus

Stanford Impact Labs does not have a fixed set of problems it is seeking to tackle. Instead, it is designed to be agile, flexible, and responsive to the changing issues in society, the priorities and concerns of the university’s external partners, and the shifting interests of Stanford faculty, staff, and students. Moreover, Stanford Impact Labs does not privilege a particular method. Methods and approaches should match the problem as specified and reflect a shared understanding among researchers and external partners about the kind of research that will prove most valuable to driving new insights towards solving the social problem.