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Robert H. Michel Special Project Grants

The Dirksen Congressional Center announces the termination of the Robert H. Michel Special Project Grants effective June 1, 2013. The Center will concentrate its grant-making activities in an enhanced version of its long-standing Congressional Research Awards now renamed “Congressional Research Grants Sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center.” Please visit for further information.

Previous Grant Awards
The Dirksen Congressional Center has the following Special Project Grants:

2001 "The Macro-Politics of Congress," a conference co-sponsored by the University of Colorado, The Dirksen Congressional Center, and Yale University.

2001 Subvention for the publication of The American Congress: The Building of Democracy, ed. Julian Zelizer (Boston and New York: Houghton Miflin Co., 2004). The book features 40 essays that capture "the full drama, landmark legislation, and most memorable personalities of Congress."

2001 MindUniversity won the third grant in November 2001 to develop virtual field trips for high school students using resources posted on The Center's Web sites and based on an Internet organizer developed by MU (

2004 Steve Frantzich, U.S. Naval Academy, "How a Bill Becomes Law Interactive." This project will create an interactive "bill becomes law" flow chart that can serve as a stand-alone activity or as the basis of classroom instruction. Each stage of the legislative process will be accompanied by a video clip example, a textual description, a discussion of alternative methods to accomplish that step, and a statistical summary (how many bills are introduced, how many roll call votes per year, etc.) The deliverables will include a PowerPoint presented with video insertions, the content for textual descriptions, and instructor's guide, and a plan to post the project results on The Center's Web suite. The U.S. Naval Academy is providing cost-sharing support.

2005 Stephanie Vance, AdVanced Consulting, "The Congressional Hearing Toolkit." "The Congressional Hearing Toolkit" will help students understand the role of the congressional hearing in the policy process, i.e., how committees operate and influence legislation, through an interactive model. The deliverables will include written materials, video of committee hearings, and two committee hearing simulation models for student use. AdVAnced Consulting is providing cost-sharing support.

2006 John Wilkerson, University of Washington, "LegSim:Senate." This project will create a companion curricular resources to LegSim: House of Representatives. Both permit students in classes of any size to organize and operate their own legislature. LegSim includes a host of instructional resources such as assignments, grading tools, and learning icons, and is customized by the instructor. Because LegSim is remotely hosted, students participate from any web browser at any time and the instructor has the flexibility to decide whether activities, such as committee meetings, debates, or votes, occur in the classroom or outside of it. Click here to visit the LegSim website:

2007 Jeffrey L. Bernstein, Eastern Michigan University, “What Do Our Students See When They Look at Congress?” This project uses “think-aloud” methodology to explore ways in which we can improve instruction on Congress. In the think-aloud, students are presented with a series of articles or videos about a particular issue (in this case, the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007) and about a particular legislative procedure (the filibuster). Students read source material and “think aloud” as they do so, enabling thoughts to be seen as they develop (rather than after they fully form, such as would be the case if a formal written paper is read).  Bernstein’s research reveals the importance of understanding (1) the tension between majority rule and majority rights and (2) the essentially conflictual nature of legislative activity.  When students have a low comfort level with these ideas, their ability to understand the work of the legislative branch suffers dramatically. See for the project’s work product.

2009 FedNet, “” This project takes advantage of a unique, proprietary database consisting of all House and Senate floor proceedings since 1998 to produce a Web-based, interactive, multi-media resource for teaching about Congress. Conceived of as a glossary of commonly taught terms about Congress linked to digitized illustrations of those terms, will provide a platform for the addition of lesson plans, expert commentary, and student activities. For an example related to Black History Month, visit

2009 American Judicature Society, “Screening Commissions for US District Judge Nominees:  A Study of U.S. Senators and the Process of Choosing Federal Judges.” Funds will be used by AJS to establish a collaborative working group of scholars and researchers to design and oversee new research on senators’ use of screening commissions to recommend individuals for appointment to U.S. District Courts. As the only study of its kind since the Carter administration, it will provide an historic bridge between initiatives taken during that administration and current senatorial plans, allowing for better-informed study of the federal nominating process and senatorial practices to advance the selection of highly qualified judges.

2010 Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q. Kelly, California State University Channel Islands, “Pork:  The Web Site.” Frisch and Kelly will create a multimedia website containing resources for students, teachers, researchers, the media, and the public aimed at increasing understanding of Congress and its power of the purse. The site will focus on congressional earmarks and the congressional appropriations process. This is a two-year commitment.

2010 Oxford University Press, pre-publication support for “Roll Call:  A History of the United States Senate” by the late Neil MacNeil. As chief congressional correspondent for Time magazine, MacNeil had unique access to many of the major modern figures in the book—he was a good friend of Everett Dirksen and Lyndon Johnson, for example—and much of his information is drawn from his own archived reporter’s notebooks, in addition to standard historical research. The grant will assist the press in completing the manuscript and supplying footnotes.

2011 Stephen Frantzich, U.S. Naval Academy, "'So the Congressman Climbed in Bed with the Farmer's Daughter . . . .': The Serious Consequences of Congress as a Target of Humorists." This exploratory research is designed to analyze humorous representations correlated with public knowledge and evaluation of Congress. Congressional representations seem like fertile ground for testing a number of important hypotheses relevant both to Congress and a broader understanding of the sources of public opinion toward other political institutions. The research will result in a teaching module posted on The Center's Web site.

2012 Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q. Kelly, California State University Channel Islands, Politics to the Extreme: American Political Institutions in the 21st Century. This grant will help fund a conference with the purpose to examine the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to the hyper-partisanship and increasing incivility that are the hallmarks of modern American politics.

2012 Angela Evans, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, The Reclamation of the U.S. Congress. This project has three primary goals: (1) to provide recommendations to Congress for ways to improve its governance and operations given the current congressional environment; (2) to create for Congress a compilation of authoritative resources covering congressional attempts at reorganization and their outcomes; and (3) to teach students how to be engaged in, and contribute to, congressional deliberations through objective analyses.

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Congressional Research Grants Robert H. Michel Special Projects Grants