Request for Proposals (RFP): Institute Partners, Study of the U.S. Institutes for Secondary Educators

RFP Issuance Date: March 29, 2021
Proposal Submission Deadline: April 21, 2021 at 11:59pm EST


The FY2021 Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Secondary Educators is an intensive academic program whose purpose is to provide multinational groups of experienced secondary-level educators the opportunity to deepen their understanding of U.S. society, culture, values, and institutions. The program will incorporate four-week academic residencies at 3 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 goal of the program is to promote the development and improvement of courses and teaching about the U.S. at secondary schools and teacher training institutions abroad.

It is Meridian’s intent to organize a consortium of 3 Institute partners to implement the SUSI Secondary Educators programs. Qualified U.S.-based colleges, universities, and affiliated higher education organizations 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 Wednesday, April 21, 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Questions regarding the RFP may be directed to with subject line “SUSI Secondary Educators.” 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.

Secondary Educators Program

The Secondary Educators 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 multinational secondary-level educators. Two (2) of the Institutes will be for teachers, and one (1) Institute will be for secondary education school administrators and other education professionals, such as curriculum developers, ministry of education officials, teacher trainers, and textbook writers. The teacher Institutes should focus primarily on providing content and materials to develop high school level curricula about the U.S., rather than pedagogy.

The three Institutes should be organized around a central theme or themes in U.S. society and should illuminate contemporary political, social, civic, and economic issues in U.S. society, including, but not limited to:

  • Climate crisis;
  • Racial justice;
  • Economic prosperity and opportunity;
  • Public health; and
  • Revitalizing democracy and human rights.

Each Institute should include a robust curriculum that elucidates the Institute theme and the history and evolution of U.S. educational institutions and values. Institutes should be organized through an integrated series of lectures, readings, seminar discussions, regional travel, and site visits, and should also include sessions that expose participants to U.S. pedagogical philosophy and practice for teaching the respective discipline.  Each Institute should also include opportunities for limited independent research and include balance and diversity in U.S. political viewpoints.

Following each academic residency, participants will travel on one-week educational study tours in 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 half-day workshops, and tour thematically relevant historical sites. 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.

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

April 7 & 9, 2021:                    RFP Q&A calls with prospective partners

April 21, 2021:                         University Institute proposals due

April 23, 2021:                         Institute selection

May 17, 2021:                         Meridian proposal due to ECA

September 2021:                    Prime agreement awarded

Winter 2022:                           Subawards 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 Monday, April 21 at 11:59 PM EST. More details regarding the submission will be provided to those selected by Friday, April 23.

  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. Appendices should include:
    • Calendar of proposed activities
    • Syllabus and bibliography
    • Proposed course presenters (faculty), with bios
    • Optional: Proposed Study Tour city, topics, themes, and potential resources that complement and elevate the academic residency. Please note: Meridian, in consultation with ECA, will determine selected study tour cities, topics, and resources. This appendix 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.

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 closing forum;
  • Study Tour logistics, itinerary, and budget (in conjunction with selected academic institutions) around each study tour;
  • Implementing all aspects of a 3-day Closing Forum to celebrate participant achievements during the Institute, develop overall cohort cohesion, and prepare participants for re-entry;
  • 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; to include:
    • Experiential learning opportunities, including guest speakers, site visits, volunteer and community service activities, and cultural events to reinforce the themes;
    • Opportunities for participants to engage with American peers:
      • Encouraging participants to discuss their research, professional interests, and country-specific educational issues with American peers, colleagues, faculty/staff, and experts;
      • Hosting events to encourage networking with American counterparts; and
      • Providing opportunities to informally engage with American public.
    • Hosting welcome and departure events with campus leadership and relevant American peers.
  • 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 input on Study Tour themes, topics, and resources that will complement and elevate the Institute curriculum.
  • Submit in a timely fashion course syllabi and program calendars;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • 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.

  1. Vision – detail to which Institute you are applying, your interest in hosting an Institute, and the expected outcomes.
  2. Institutional capacity, expertise and special resources
  3. Academic Residency
  4. Additional Programming
  5. Logistical Considerations
  6. Staffing – please describe your institute staff pattern.

A. Vision – detail to which Institute you are applying, your interest in hosting an Institute, and the expected outcomes.

B. Institutional capacity, expertise and special resources

  • a) Institutional capacity
    • i. Prior experience implementing SUSI or working with international professionals and programs;
    • ii. Chart outlining the following information about your organization: mission, date of establishment, relevant expertise, past programmatic work, ongoing programmatic work.
      • 1. 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.
      • 2. 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 education
  • b) Institutional profile
    • i. Past teacher training and/or curriculum development programs/courses and unique resources that will be tapped for this program
      • 1. 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
    • ii. Indicate programming strengths, based on the selected Institute theme, which could include, but is not limited to:
      • 1. Climate crisis;
      • 2. Racial justice;
      • 3. Economic prosperity and opportunity;
      • 4. Public health; and
      • 5. Revitalizing democracy and human rights
  • c) 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.
  • d) 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/talk 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.

C. Academic Residency

  • a) Program design: The academic residency should be a specially designed and well-integrated seminar that imaginatively combines lectures, discussions, readings, debates, and site visits and regional travel 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.
  • b) 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 to develop U.S. curricula abroad.
  • c) Customized curriculum: Program design should be tailored to the selected Institute them and maintain flexibility to match participants’ professional interests. Efforts should be made to arrange for participants to present their country’s history and culture to diverse groups of Americans.
  • d) 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.
  • e) 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.

D. Additional Programming

  • a) Local professional resources and networks: Describe potential opportunities for participants to speak to and network with a diverse group of American professionals working in relevant fields.
  • b) Community service: Each residency should plan for at least one hands-on volunteer activity 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.
  • c) U.S. involvement: Describe how you plan to involve American community members in the program.
  • d) 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.
  • e) Enrichment activities (cultural, recreational), including home hospitality. 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 conduct independent research, exercise, and relax with their peers.
  • f) Study Tours: You may include a suggested city to highlight during the educational study tour that complements your proposed curriculum. Please include in suggestions potential topics, themes, and 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.

E. Logistical Considerations

  • a) 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.
  • b) 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.
  • c) Housing arrangements: Participants should be housed on campus in 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom university graduate 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.
  • d) 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.
  • e) 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.
  • f) Please budget for an opening or closing event at the host university.
  • g) Cultural Events: Please describe some of the university community’s unique opportunities for cultural events.
  • h) 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.

F. Staffing – please describe your institute staff pattern.

  • a) 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.
  • b) 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.
  • c) 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, and understanding of the program’s objectives, and a willingness to accompany the participants as needed.

G. 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 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 secondary educators.
  • 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 closing forum in Washington, D.C. 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 2-bedroom apartment-style graduate dorm with access to a kitchen, bathroom, and living area for 28 days.
  • 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.

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 Secondary Educators 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 Wednesday, April 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 Friday, April 23. Meridian staff will be able to submit written feedback on unsuccessful submissions after proposal submission on Monday, May 17. 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 with a coherent theme relevant to U.S. history, experiences, and contemporary issues. Applicant clearly demonstrates capacity to incorporate American scholars, peers, experts, and community leaders to teach curriculum and meet with participants during the academic residency;
  • Applicant incorporates experiential learning opportunities, including a diverse set of organized networking events, site visits, seminars, workshops, 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 peers;
  • Organized 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 educators and a strong knowledge of Institute themes and resources;
  • Organization has past experience designing and successfully executing course curricula for international educators and participants at their institution.


  • 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 education professionals;
  • 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 29 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 Secondary Educators proposal. All proposals are due Wednesday, April 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 Secondary Educators program.

Application Link:

Required Proposal Templates: