$2.5 Million Grants Target Diversity in STEM

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Six universities will each receive $2.5 million through the Driving Change initiative, a project that supports building more inclusive learning environments in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in higher education.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a nonprofit research and philanthropic organization with a mission to advance the discovery and sharing of scientific knowledge, awarded the funding.

HHMI’s Driving Change five-year grants will address longstanding barriers of institutional racism and a lack of diversity in STEM and support sustained efforts to make these fields of education more equitable and accessible. Rather than having a “fix the student” mindset, HHMI addresses gaps in the system by working with colleges and universities to develop programs that enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. 

Since the launch of Driving Change in 2019, 38 research universities out of 99 applicants have been selected to participate in the program’s Learning Community, made up of 180 school representatives that work as a team to drive institutional culture change. Of these institutions, six qualified for the $2.5 million grants by making the strongest arguments for their campus programs as being the most promising for successful change and community impact.

These institutions include Loyola Marymount University, The Ohio State University, University at Albany (UAlbany), University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), University of Montana (UM), and the University of Virginia. 

University of Montana 

UM will use the grant funds to become a national model for preparing, supporting, and learning from its Native students, faculty, and staff, by incorporating Indigenous cultural knowledge and historical experiences into their curriculum, teaching, and administration. In addition, the university will cultivate reciprocal collaboration with tribal communities to create pathways for Native students to enroll at UM, excel in their education, and obtain meaningful careers. 

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

UMES, the first historically Black college to receive the HHMI award, will utilize the funds to create a new program called Students Achieving Results in Science (STEM STARS), a supportive living-learning community based in a residence hall. The project will also include internship programs for STEM students. 

University at Albany

In addition to these projects, UAlbany signaled its university project will match the HHMI grant and further expand an existing program led by the Center of Achievement, Retention and Student Success (CARSS). CARSS, which provides free structured tutoring and is proven to have a positive impact on students from historically underrepresented groups, will be expanded for STEM students as EXCELlence in STEM. The program involves a summer assessment with online preparatory courses for all incoming STEM majors, microgrants, summer research opportunities, and personalized advising and counseling services. The project will also advance inclusive syllabi and teaching methods at UAlbany.

This article was published in our January/February 2023 issue.