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DePauw Receives $1 Million 'Inclusive Excellence' STEM Grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

DePauw Receives $1 Million 'Inclusive Excellence' STEM Grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

June 20, 2018

DePauw University is one of 33 colleges and universities nationwide to receive a five-year, $1 million 2018 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence program. The goal of the award is to improve persistence and success for underserved STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students at DePauw by enacting systemic change that will benefit all students.

"Participation in the HHMI Inclusive Excellence program is fostering a bold and timely next chapter in STEM instruction at DePauw University," explains Jacqueline Roberts, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who will serve as program director of the grant. "Our HHMI work is built on collaborative relationships present on our small liberal arts campus, but is grounded in an intentional and sustained shift toward listening to and learning from marginalized students about the barriers to and opportunities for excellence."

The other principal investigators include Pamela Propsom, professor of psychology and neuroscience; Dana Dudle, professor of biology; Julianne Miranda, dean of student success and retention; and Colleen McCracken, health professions advisor (DePauw's HHMI team is pictured at left with Anne Harris, vice president for academic affairs, and Tamara Beauboeuf, dean of the faculty).

Susan Musante, a program officer for HHMI, notes, "For years, the higher education system has focused on treating symptoms instead of addressing root causes." With the Inclusive Excellence initiative, she says, HHMI is asking institutions to identify how they are standing in the way of success for certain groups of students -- then find ways to change. While the scientific community has long worked to increase diversity in the sciences, programs have tended to focus on helping students in ways that enable them to adapt to the majority culture.

With HHMI funds, DePauw STEM departments and programs will engage in self‐studies and faculty development to address gatekeeping practices and pedagogies and develop inclusion training for faculty and peer mentors, among other initiatives aimed at data‐driven divisional change.

"I anticipate that the HHMI Inclusive Excellence program will help DePauw bring down barriers in higher education, creating more welcoming spaces for all underrepresented students in STEM," stated Liz Aguilar ‘18, the recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the 2018 recipient of the University's Murad Medal. "I'm looking forward to seeing the possibilities that will open up for minority students and I hope these initiatives will foster further growth of diversity training and create opportunities for discussing topics such as race, privilege, and identities in STEM classrooms."

Brittany Davis ’20, founder of SoCiS (Students of Color in STEM) at DePauw, adds, "I am extremely excited and grateful that the HHMI Inclusive Excellence program is funding more initiatives for DePauw, and cannot wait to see the impact that it has on our campus. I hope that the additional support that it will provide will improve the diversity training that is currently in place, and help foster a more inclusive classroom and community environment for underrepresented students. After meeting and working with so many committed professors and faculty, I anticipate that this program will help significantly progress systemic change."

"This grant will reinforce our pledge to the success of each student through DePauw's Gold Commitment," said D. Mark McCoy, the University's 20th president. "Having faculty and staff of this caliber securing the funds to level the playing field for underrepresented students is proof of concept for us. We look forward to great things through this award."

"The HHMI Inclusive Excellence Award will be a contribution to the julian featurelasting legacy of Dr. Percy Julian, who graduated from DePauw as valedictorian in 1920, within numerous institutionalized barriers, and, in 1973, became the first African American chemist to be inducted in the National Academy of Sciences," noted Anne F. Harris, vice president for academic affairs.

During two rounds of selection in 2017 and 2018, HHMI received applications from 594 schools. Of these, 140 schools were invited to submit full proposals for plans to develop more inclusive environments for their students. A total of 57 grants were awarded over the two year period.

"More than an end goal, inclusive excellence is a process, and the HHMI grantees have committed to engaging in that process," says David Asai, HHMI's senior director for science education. "Through this initiative, 57 local experiments will be under way; together, the outcomes of these experiments will lead to a better understanding of how a campus can build capacity for inclusion."

Learn more here.