Mount Holyoke receives STEM grant from HHMI

Mount Holyoke College is the recipient of a six-year grant of $529,500 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) through the Science Education Program’s Inclusive Excellence 3 initiative.

The grant will support the development of a more inclusive STEM curricula, with the goal of ensuring that all students feel they belong and can be successful in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“This is fitting recognition for the years of work Mount Holyoke has done to reconfigure its STEM curricula to promote inclusion and increase student success, especially for first-generation students and students of color.”

“This is fitting recognition for the years of work Mount Holyoke has done to reconfigure its STEM curricula to promote inclusion and increase student success, especially for first-generation students and students of color,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Lisa Sullivan. “With this level of support from HHMI, we can build on this work and create new supports to attract and retain these students in the STEM fields, launching them into advanced study and successful careers.”

“As participants in a learning community cluster — along with diverse and distinguished schools such as Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia, and Hartwick College — we can continue learning from others and adopting the best practices for STEM inclusion and success while also contributing our own expertise and successful track record,” added Associate Professor of Chemistry W. Donald Cotter, who is currently heading up the IE3 implementation. Mount Holyoke continues to be the nation’s leading baccalaureate source of women earning doctorates in STEM over a 50-year period.

The IE3 initiative provides more than $60 million in funding over six years, which will be shared by Mount Holyoke and 103 other four-year colleges and universities. Institutions have been divided into seven diverse learning community clusters (LCCs) to maximize learning and influence change.

“The HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative fosters a learning community of college and university faculty and administrators who are engaged in the process of increasing their institution’s capacity for inclusion of all students, especially students who belong to groups underrepresented in the sciences,” said HHMI in a statement. “Each school in the community commits to learning through reflection, sharing what is being learned, listening to feedback and supporting other members of the community.”

Mount Holyoke College participates in an LCC with 13 other institutions: Allegheny College; Auburn University at Montgomery; California State University, East Bay, College of the Holy Cross; Emmanuel College (Massachusetts); Hartwick College; Nebraska Wesleyan University; Rollins College; St. John’s University-New York; University of Akron; University of Kansas; University of Virginia; and Vanderbilt University. Mount Holyoke was awarded $30,000 for its participation in an LCC in spring 2021, bringing the total awarded by HHMI to $559,500.

The proposal submitted by the full LCC identified its main goal as fostering equity in students’ experiences and outcomes by shifting from being deficit oriented to being achievement oriented.

The proposal further identified five overlapping areas of implementation: continuing education, inclusive curricula, student empowerment, inclusive collaboration and broader approaches to institutional transformation. Key activities will include creating cross-institutional learning groups for instructors, academic advisors and administrators; faculty working in interdisciplinary teams to learn about teaching methods in other disciplines; developing courses focused on building community, sense of belonging and STEM identity; and promoting broader collaboration between STEM departments and student affairs, admissions, institutional research and student success.

Cotter and Gary Gillis, Norman Wait Harris and Emma Gale Harris Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences, were the project directors on the final proposal. Cotter is currently the project director and Renae Brodie, professor of biological sciences, will replace him in spring 2023.

Others on the Mount Holyoke IE3 core team include Amy Hitchcock Camp, associate professor of biological sciences; Amber Douglas, dean of the College, vice president of student success and professor of psychology and education; Elizabeth Markovits, associate dean of faculty and professor of politics; and Becky Wai-Ling Packard, professor of psychology and education.

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