Request for Proposals (RFP) – SUSI for Student Leaders from Europe

Issuance Date: April 23, 2021
Submission Deadline: May 21, 2021 at 11:59 EST

Program Summary

The FY2021 Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders from Europe is an intensive academic program whose purpose is to provide multinational groups of European undergraduate students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of U.S. society, culture, values, and institutions. The program will incorporate four-week academic residencies at 3 thematically focused Institutes, followed by a one-week educational study tour in a different region from the Institute to showcase the geographic, demographic, ideological, and institutional diversity within the U.S. The program will also include a three-day event in Washington, DC that will host all Institute groups. The goal of the program is to provide European student leaders with an in-depth examination of a specific field of study, while also developing their leadership skills and heightening their awareness of the history and evolution of U.S. society, culture, values, and institutions.

It is Meridian’s intent to organize a consortium of 3 Institute partners to implement the SUSI for Student Leaders from Europe program. Qualified U.S.-based colleges, universities, and affiliated higher education organizations based on a college or university campus that would like to be considered as a consortium partner for Meridian’s proposal should carefully review the information enclosed detailing proposal requirements and submit their proposal packages to the linked application submission form by no later than Friday, May 21, 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Questions regarding the RFP may be directed to with subject line “SUSI for Student Leaders from Europe.” Meridian will not accept individual phone calls about the RFP. The full Department of State NOFO and POGI can be accessed here.

Pending successful implementation of this program and the availability of funds in subsequent fiscal years, it is ECA’s intent to renew this cooperative agreement for two additional consecutive fiscal years before openly competing it again.

Student Leaders from Europe Program

The Student Leaders from Europe program will consist of three (3) Institutes that include the four-week academic residency and a one-week educational study tour, for groups of 20 European undergraduate students aged 18 – 25 years old. Each Institute will focus on a theme relevant to U.S. policy priorities in the region. The Institute themes for the 2021 Student Leaders from Europe are:

  • Civic Engagement: topics may include, but are not limited to, active citizenship and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, civil rights and protections, voting, racial equity, gender equity, community building and economic development, public policy, grassroots activism, political leadership, student and youth activism, and volunteerism.
  • Environmental Issues: topics may include, but are not limited to, climate change, sustainable development, clean energy, conservation, environmental justice, ocean protection, pollution, economic impact, public health, and the impact of climate change on underserved, youth, and minority populations and communities including indigenous people.
  • Journalism and Media: topics may include, but are not limited to, First Amendment rights, media literacy, the role of a free press in a democracy, combatting the spread of disinformation, technology’s impact on journalism, editorial independence, journalistic ethics, legal considerations, citizen journalism including student and youth journalism, economic models for journalism, privacy issues, digital and social media, and journalistic tradecraft.

The Institutes should incorporate a focus on American historical events as well as contemporary American life including current political, social, and economic debates in a pluralistic society. In addition to topics related to the overall theme of each program, the Institutes should also address the influence of principles and values such as democracy, civil rights, social inclusion, freedom of expression, equality, and diversity on U.S. culture and society. The final component of the academic residency is a weekly leadership development series that improve the students’ leadership capacity. Weekly leadership sessions should focus on teambuilding, collective problem-solving skills, effective communication, and management skills, among others.

The academic program should include group discussions, experiential learning activities, and exercises that focus on the Institute theme for students to gain both theoretical and practical knowledge. Institutes should also include a community service component in which the students participate in weekly volunteer service activities and experience firsthand how not-for-profit organizations and volunteerism play a key role in U.S. civil society. Institutes should also incorporate cultural activities and site visits to fully immerse participants in the host community and maximize engagement opportunities with American peers. A weekend homestay with an American family should be included during the program to provide participants with an opportunity to spend a weekend with a typical American family. Institutes should foster an inclusive environment by incorporating speakers from diverse backgrounds and encouraging open and collaborative discussions.

Meridian requests interested Institute partners to include, as an outcome of the leadership development series, a plan to assist students to develop individual community action plans. Community action plans are an effective tool for students to apply their knowledge gained from the Institute and leadership series. Students will identify an issue in their home community and create a plan of action to address it. Institute curricula should culminate in a final presentation during which students share a poster project detailing their community action plan to Institute staff, relevant university and community leaders, and American students and peers. Meridian and Department of State representatives will also join either in-person or virtually. Meridian will support the implementation of community action plans when participants return home.

Following each academic residency, participants will travel on one-week educational study tours to a different region from the academic residency. The study tours are opportunities for participants to take lessons learned and takeaways from the academic residency and observe how they are applied in a U.S. community different than their Institute community. During the study tours, participants could engage in professional meetings with local community experts, visit local school systems, participate in brief workshops, and tour thematically relevant historical sites, among other activities. Through the educational study tours, participants can observe and participate in varied aspects of American life as they relate to the Institute topic and understand the rich cultural, economic, political, and social diversity in the U.S.

The Student Leaders from Europe program will begin with a Program Launch, hosted by Meridian International Center, in Washington, DC. The Program Launch will be a three-day program that prepares participants for the academic residencies, creates group cohesion across the cohorts, introduces general concepts to U.S. history such as U.S. federalism, and orients participants to the program. Academic directors from the Institutes will be required to attend the Program Launch.

Please note that Meridian International Center will be primarily responsible for developing itineraries and logistical arrangements for the study tour component of the program. Consortium partner institutions will coordinate closely with Meridian to create study tour themes and topics, identify potential resources for the study tour, and provide feedback on study tour itineraries so that study tours complement and reinforce the academic residency. Partner institutions, however, are primarily responsible for designing and implementing the four-week academic residencies.

Program Timeline

May 3 & 5, 2021:                   RFP Q&A calls with prospective partners

May 21, 2021:                        University Institute proposals due

May 25, 2021:                        Institute selection

June 7, 2021:                         Meridian proposal due to ECA

September 2021:                   Prime agreement awarded

Winter 2022:                          Sub-awards issued to Institute partners

Summer 2022:                       Institutes implemented

Fall 2022 – Winter 2023:        Follow-on alumni activities

RFP Q&A Sessions

Meridian will host two Q&A sessions about the RFP process and content. Meridian will document these calls and publish an FAQ document for applicant reference. If you are interested in participating in a Q&A session, please register to receive conference call information using the links below:

Proposal Requirements

Selected Institute partners will be required to provide the following, via an online submission form with additional questions, by no later than Friday, May 21 at 11:59 PM EST. More details regarding the submission will be provided to those selected by Tuesday, May 25.

  1. Letter of intent on organization’s letterhead that describes your interest in hosting the institute, unique resources your university community offers, proposed staff, and cost share commitment. Meridian will provide you with a template for this letter.
  2. A maximum seven-page proposal for the academic institute, including an overview of the Institute theme; plans for seminars and workshops; logistics, including housing; American community member and peer involvement with the program; and community service activities. Narratives should also include a proposed Study Tour city, topics, and themes that complement and elevate the academic residency. Please note: Meridian, in consultation with ECA, will determine selected study tour cities, topics, and resources. Appendices should include:
    • Calendar of proposed activities
    • Syllabus and bibliography
    • Proposed course presenters (faculty), with bios
    • Optional: You may propose specific resources, though identifying proposed resources is not required 
  3. Budget and budget narrative: Meridian requests that Institute partners use Meridian’s budget and budget narrative templates. Meridian will provide these templates.
  4. Resumes of key staff: Each Institute must identify one Academic Director and one Administrative Director, as well as any additional support staff. Additional key staff participating in the program (who are known at this time) should also be included.
  5. Signed Nondisclosure Agreement: Each Institute is required to agree to a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with Meridian at the time of submission. The Meridian team will return a copy the fully executed NDA to all Institutes within 24 hours of the submission deadline for the Institute’s files. Meridian will provide each Institute a copy of the NDA for signature. Please note: If your organization already has an active NDA with Meridian, you are not required to submit another.

Summary of Roles and Responsibilities

 Meridian will be responsible for the following aspects of the program:

  • Logistics: All international and domestic flights and logistics; J-1 visas and visa travel support; accident and health insurance; issuing M&IE and ground transportation stipend to participants only during the study tour and program launch;
  • Study Tour logistics, itinerary, and budget (in conjunction with selected academic institutions);
  • Implementing all aspects of a 3-day Program Launch to prepare participants for the academic residencies, create group cohesion across the cohorts, introduce general concepts to U.S. history such as U.S. federalism, and orient participants to the program;
  • Monitoring and evaluation of the program, including program participants, partner organizations, and resources;
  • Follow-on/alumni activities, including creation and maintenance of an alumni database of success and impact stories (in conjunction with each Institute partner);
  • Narrative and financial reporting to ECA; and
  • Overall grant compliance and consortium management.

 Selected academic institutions’ roles and responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:

  • Develop 28-day intensive academic residency program focused on the designated themes, providing particular attention to the U.S. experience, its history, and its contemporary challenges;
  • Create a carefully integrated and rigorous academic curriculum consisting of lectures, panel presentations, seminar discussions, debates, simulations, individual and group classroom activities, and reading assignments;
  • Include a wide range of speakers that represent the diversity of American culture and people. Speakers should represent gender parity, diverse viewpoints, minority/ethnically diverse groups, etc.
  • Integrate a weekly leadership series that culminates in the creation of individual community action plans to be presented as a final capstone project for the Institute;
    • Provide opportunities for participants to engage with American students and peers formally and informally throughout the program;
    • Host welcome and departure events with campus leadership and relevant American peers;
    • Implement academic and administrative orientations at the beginning of the Institute program;
  • Coordinate, in collaboration with Meridian staff, all necessary on-the-ground logistics, including any necessary lodging, ground transportation needs, group meals and participant meal plans/M&IE, meeting space, etc.;
  • Arrange and/or suggest opportunities for cultural exchange, volunteer activities, speaking engagements, civic participation, and networking opportunities;
  • Include a weekend homestay with an American family for an opportunity for students to spend time with a typical American family;
  • Develop opportunities for sharing and reflection on visitors’ experiences;
  • Garner local media coverage as possible and promote the project through social media, ensuring proper credit is given to the U.S. Department of State and Meridian;
  • Coordinate with Meridian to develop Study Tour themes and topics, as well as suggest potential resources in the selected Study Tour city. Please note: Meridian will lead the scheduling and development of the final itinerary. Selected Institutes will provide the Study Tour themes, topics, and potential resources that will complement and elevate the Institute curriculum.
  • Submit in a timely fashion course syllabi and program calendars;
  • Maintain financial records; and
  • Maintain regular communication with SUSI program staff

Proposal Narrative

We request that proposals do not exceed 7-pages to describe the proposed Institute. Here is a suggested outline of proposal sections.

  • Vision – detail to which Institute you are applying, your interest in hosting an Institute, and the expected outcomes.
  • Institutional capacity, expertise, and special resources
    • Institutional capacity
      • Prior experience implementing SUSI or working with international professionals and programs. Experience with European students or delegations, particularly those from underserved communities, should be highlighted.
      • Chart outlining the following information about your organization: mission, date of establishment, relevant expertise, past programmatic work, ongoing programmatic work.
        • Previous awards from the Bureau since 2010 should be included as past or ongoing programmatic work. These programs should be listed by office (Citizen Exchanges, International Visitors, Academic Exchanges) and indicate project name, countries, year, and amount. Previous programming or expertise with European delegations and programs should be highlighted.
        • Include metrics whenever possible, such as number of years implementing ECA programs, number of academic residency programs, number of participants per program/year, and number of programs and/or participants focused on student education. Previous experience with European students should be highlighted.
      • Institutional profile
        • Past student leadership programs/courses and unique resources that will be tapped for this program.
          • Include metrics on engagement and partnership with these programs, courses, and resources, including the number of programs, number of seminars and/or workshops, number of speakers and/or experts, and number of alumni engaged with these resources post-program.
        • Indicate programming strengths based on the selected Institute theme, which could include, but is not limited to:
      • Community profile: please describe your community and resources that complement the academic residency, including resources for cultural activities or community leaders, organizations, and companies that might participate in the program.
      • Program enhancements: please list any prominent individuals in your city or university – journalists, academic experts, community leaders/elected officials, cultural influencers – who might be available to meet with the participants and discuss topics related to the SUSI Institute theme. If possible, please provide letters expressing interest in the program from such individuals and/or organizations.
  • Academic Residency
    • Program design: The academic residency should be a specially designed and well-integrated seminar, focused on one of the three Institute themes, that imaginatively combines lectures, discussions, readings, debates, site visits, regional travel, and leadership development into a coherent program. It should be creative, thematically coherent, and draw upon institutional strengths. It should not replicate an existing lecture course, survey, or seminar designed for U.S. students.
    • Diversity: Participants should have the opportunity to hear from balanced and diverse perspectives on topics including U.S. history, government, civic institutions, culture, and society. All programs should contribute to a deeper understanding of the U.S., while at the same time provide useful skills and concepts related to the Institute theme.
    • Customized curriculum: Program design should be tailored to the selected Institute theme and maintain flexibility to match participants’ individual interests. Efforts should be made to arrange for participants to present their country’s history and culture to diverse groups of Americans.
    • Provide a calendar or itinerary of all program activities, including a syllabus that includes the subject of each class session, representative bibliography of suggested readings, and Course Instructors.
    • Monitoring and evaluation: Please share your plans for evaluating participant’s residency experience and how feedback will be shared with Meridian and incorporated promptly into the residency.
  • Additional Programming
    • Local resources and networks: Describe potential opportunities for participants to engage and network with a diverse group of American professionals, peers, and students working in relevant fields and living on campus/in the local community.
    • Community service: Each residency should plan for weekly hands-on volunteer activities to provide participants the opportunity to experience first-hand the U.S. tradition of grassroots approaches to solving community problems, as well as additional opportunities to meet and interact with diverse Americans outside an academic setting. Pre- and post-volunteer debriefing sessions should be offered. Volunteering alongside U.S. counterparts is a nice addition when possible.
    • Leadership development: Outline weekly leadership series that culminates in the development of individual community action plans. Students should have an opportunity to work with university faculty and staff to develop their action plans. The leadership series should end with an opportunity for students to present their community action plans via a poster showcase to relevant university faculty and staff, community members, and students.
    • S. involvement: Describe how you plan to involve American community members in the program.
    • Diversity: Describe how you will ensure that the participants will meet U.S. citizens from a wide variety of backgrounds, representing socio-economic, ethnic, gender, and age diversity as much as possible. Describe how diversity, equity, and inclusion will achieve the goals and objectives of the Institute.
    • Enrichment activities (cultural, recreational), including a 2-night weekend stay with an American family. A description of vetting American homestay hosts is required. Include ideas for day trips or optional weekend excursions, designed to reinforce the academic curriculum, to various local and nearby locations, including historical sites, schools, places of worship, etc. It is also important to keep some free time in the schedule for participants to exercise and relax with their American and European peers.
    • Study Tours: Suggest a city for the educational study tour that complements your proposed curriculum. Please include suggestions of potential topics and themes. You may also include resources that reinforce the academic portion of the program. Meridian will be ultimately responsible for arranging study tour itineraries in consultation with Institutes and ECA.
  • Logistical Considerations
    • Administrative orientation: Please include a description of how the participants will be met at the airport and provided orientation at the host university. Administrative orientations should include an overview of administrative and logistical items specific to the Institute, such as campus tours and a meal plan overview.
    • Academic orientation: Please include a description of how you will provide participants with a concise overview of the program, including principal objectives and major themes, as well as a discussion of expectations for participation.
    • Housing arrangements: Participants should be housed on campus in 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom university dorms or similar designated university housing. Walking distance to daily classes should be taken into account. Each participant should have their own private bedroom. Additionally, participants should have access to kitchen facilities, either in their own rooms or in a common room.
    • Meal arrangements: A cafeteria meal plan combined with a cash allowance for food that will permit participants to cook or eat at local restaurants is strongly recommended. Applicants should plan to provide some group meals for the cohort. Meridian will notify the university partners of any dietary restrictions, and every effort should be made to accommodate them.
    • Access to resources: Participants should have access to local resources, including campus libraries, computer and internet facilities, local and national newspapers and periodicals, as well as radio and television. A formal orientation to library services should be conducted during the first week of the program, and computer training and technical support should be provided for those participants with disabilities and up to $2,000 per Institute should be budgeted toward this expense.
    • Please budget for an opening or closing event at the host university.
    • Cultural Events: Please describe some of the university community’s unique opportunities for cultural events.
    • COVID-19 Contingency Planning: Applicants should include a brief commitment to remaining flexible in the event of COVID-19 contingency planning, as well as a brief overview campus resources available to ensure participants’ health and safety as it specifically relates to COVID-19.
  • Staffing – please describe your institute staff pattern.
    • Academic Director: Present throughout the academic program in its entirety to ensure continuity, coherence, and integration of all aspects of the academic program, including the study tour. The Academic Director will plan and implement programs at their respective host institutions, oversee day-to-day management, and monitor program participants. This individual should have experience designing course curriculum as well as managing international study tours and demonstrable experience working with international visitors.
    • Administrative Director/Coordinator: Oversees all program support services, including supervision of the program participants, budgetary, logistical and other administrative arrangements. This individual should have at least 2 years of experience managing these types of programs, including familiarity working with the host institution’s budget and finance office, as well as demonstrable experience working with international visitors.
    • Please outline additional staffing as needed, including volunteer drivers, intern support (which can be cost-shared), honorary “cultural ambassadors,” or graduate mentors, etc. All support staff and volunteers should exhibit cultural sensitivity, understanding of the program’s objectives, and a willingness to accompany the participants as needed.
  • Resumes– Please attach 1-page resumes of key staff.

Budget Guidelines

We ask that each line item in the budget be accompanied by a short description in the narrative template linked in the folder below.

Please note the following:

  • Meridian requests a minimum of 10% cost share from each Institute. We are aiming to have cost share represent 25% of the overall budget.
  • Each Institute will be required to host 20 international European undergraduate students.
  • Please indicate dollar amount of each line item (if any) to be cost shared in the cost share column. The template will automatically calculate total costs.

If you have any questions, please contact the SUSI Proposal Team at

Administrative Costs

Direct Expenses:

  • Staff Costs: Please outline the projected salary and benefit costs.
  • Other Direct Expenses: Please include costs such as telephone, fax, postage, copying, printing, office supplies, etc. not accounted for in Indirect Costs.

Indirect Costs: Please outline any indirect costs.

Program Costs

Program Travel:

  • Staff travel: Please include cost for per diem, baggage expenses, and one-way return travel for one staff member to attend the Study Tour and Program Launch in Washington, DC at the conclusion of the program. Please note: Meridian will pay directly for Institute staff’s travel to the Study Tour and Washington, DC and lodging.

Other Direct Costs:

  • Honoraria: The honoraria for speakers who are not being compensated on a salaried basis should not exceed $250 per day per speaker. Any additional costs for speakers should be cost shared.
  • Meals and incidentals per diem for guest speaker: as needed, per diem costs for guest speakers should comply with U.S. government rates. Please see
  • Guest speaker travel: Please indicate the cost of mileage and/or parking estimated for guest speakers.
  • Educational materials: Film and video rentals, educational materials, access to campus libraries and academic material, and other curricular needs for the program. NOTE: This section is for costs that do not vary by number of participants.

 Participant Costs:

  • Lodging: Please estimate the per person costs for 20 participants to stay in 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom university dorms or similar designated university housing with access to a kitchen, bathroom, and living area for 28 nights.
  • Ground transportation: This includes airport transfers, bus or van rentals, taxis, etc. for the duration of the academic residency.

Participant Other Direct Costs:

  • Participant cultural allowance: Use this line item for cultural activities planned for the group as part of the academic residency. Please limit this expense to $200 per participant.
  • Welcome/Farewell events: Please include costs associated with a welcome event and a farewell event at the Institute.
  • Background Checks for Homestay Hosts: Please include costs associated with conducting a criminal background check for American homestay hosts.

Subaward Renewal

Participation as an Institute partner may be renewed annually, based on prior performance and the availability of funding, and at the U.S. Department of State and Meridian’s sole discretion, for up to two years. Meridian reserves the right to request updated budget or program documents, negotiate changes to programming or scope of work, and decide not to renew for future years.

Review Criteria

Through an open competition, Meridian seeks to recruit partners for its proposal to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs to be the implementing partner for the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders from Europe program. Meridian seeks to recruit and partner with a diverse array of organizations.

Eligible colleges and universities that would like to be considered as an Institute partner to be included in Meridian’s proposal should submit the online application and required documents no later than Friday, May 21, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. Applications received after this time will not be considered. All applicants will be notified of their proposal status by Tuesday, May 25. Meridian staff will be able to submit written feedback on unsuccessful submissions after proposal submission on Monday, June 7. Please email the Meridian team at to request written feedback.

Proposals will be considered based on the following criteria. The criteria are not rank-ordered and each category carries equal weight in the evaluation:

Academic Residency

  • Applicant details robust Institute curriculum focusing on 1 of 3 Institute themes relevant to U.S. history, experiences, and contemporary issues. Applicant clearly demonstrates capacity to incorporate American scholars, peers, experts, students, and community leaders to teach curriculum and meet with participants during the academic residency;
  • Applicant includes a comprehensive and effective leadership development series that includes weekly sessions and the development of a community action plan. Applicant includes an opportunity for students to present their community action plans during a poster session at the end of the Institute;
  • Applicant incorporates experiential learning opportunities, including a diverse set of organized networking events, site visits, seminars, workshops, weekend homestay, cultural activities, and receptions throughout the residency;
  • Opportunities for participant feedback and individual research are incorporated throughout the residency. Applicant commits to report relevant feedback to Meridian.

Mutual Understanding

  • Application demonstrates an understanding and appreciation of SUSI’s benefits to the local community;
  • Facilitated cultural activities offer fellows opportunities to experience the diversity of the U.S. and interact with a diverse group of Americans;
  • Opportunities are provided for participants to share experiences of their individual professional interests and home communities;
  • Professional activities are designed to provide participants with the opportunity to have substantive engagement with Americans students and peers;
  • Organized weekly community service activities represent a diverse set of thematic opportunities relevant to the overall Institute.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

  • Application clearly demonstrates a commitment to incorporating a variety of speakers, perspectives, and resources to showcase American diversity;
  • Academic residency provides opportunity for participants to understand the importance of EDI in the U.S. and methods to incorporate EDI discussion in U.S. history and culture curricula in their home countries;
  • Applicant explains how the Institute incorporates EDI to enhance the Institute’s goals and objectives and the overall participant experience;
  • A comprehensive diversity plan is included to demonstrate how the Institute will achieve diversity throughout the academic residency.

Past Performance

  • Key personnel have knowledge and experience implementing programs for international students and a strong knowledge of Institute themes and resources;
  • Organization has past experience designing and successfully executing course curricula for international students and participants at their institution;
  • Experience with European students, programs, and/or delegations are clearly highlighted and detailed.


  • Orientation provides a strong introduction to the campus and surrounding community and covers key topics such as safety and sexual harassment prevention, program expectations and norms, and introduction to campus and community resources;
  • Housing facility is appropriate for undergraduate students;
  • A clear plan for providing meals, M&IE, and transportation is provided;
  • Medical facilities and a staffing plan have been identified to support participant care needs that may arise, and a brief COVID-19 contingency plan has been included;
  • Organization has the capacity and willingness to provide accommodations for fellows with disabilities.


  • Overall budget costs are reasonable, allowable, cost-effective, and realistic for the programming proposed;
  • Adequate staff time are budgeted to successfully implement the program;
  • Reasonable lodging and other program costs are included for twenty participants for 28 nights;
  • The budget narrative clearly details how the costs for each line item are derived.

Application Submission Link & Proposal Templates

Please use the link below to submit your application for consideration as an Institute partner for Meridian’s SUSI for Student Leaders from Europe proposal. All proposals are due Friday, May 21 at 11:59 pm EST. Proposals will not be accepted after this time. Also included below is a link to access required templates for use in your submission. If you are experiencing difficulty accessing the application or proposal templates links, please email Thank you for your interest in Meridian’s consortium for the SUSI Student Leaders from Europe program.

Application Link:

Required Proposal Templates: