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Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant to Support Inclusive Science Education

Funding Supports UMD’s Participation in National Effort to Foster Undergraduate Success in Sciences

By Abby Robinson

Students walk near the sundial on McKeldin Mall

UMD will join a group of more than a dozen other colleges, all supported by funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, working to provide greater support for undergrads from diverse backgrounds in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors.

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) awarded the University of Maryland a six-year, $505,000 grant to continue UMD’s work toward the inclusion of all students in science.

Since 1992, UMD has received more than $10 million in grants through HHMI’s Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) initiative to enhance undergraduate science education. This new award builds on previous initiatives to revitalize the biological sciences curriculum, support undergraduate student success via early engagement in research, and provide professional development opportunities for faculty members and graduate students.

HHMI awarded IE3 grants to 104 colleges and universities—totaling more than $60 million over six years—to collaborate on strategies for creating more welcoming, inclusive learning experiences for students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Of the nearly 1 million students who enter college annually intending to study STEM, more than half do not complete a STEM bachelor’s degree. Those who leave STEM are disproportionately students who are the first in their families to attend college, who begin at community colleges and from historically excluded ethnic and racial groups.

“We are thrilled to be working with our colleagues across the country to learn about and implement teaching strategies that empower students of all backgrounds to succeed in STEM,” said Kaci Thompson, UMD’s principal investigator on the grant and the assistant dean for science education initiatives in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences .

Co-principal investigators of the new award include Gili Marbach-Ad, director of the CMNS Teaching and Learning Center, and Marco Molinaro, UMD executive director for educational effectiveness and analytics. The UMD team also includes faculty and staff members from the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center; the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment; the College of Education; the First-Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) program; and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

HHMI reviewed 354 proposals and awarded grants to 104 schools, dividing them into seven Learning Community Clusters, or LCCs.

UMD’s LLC includes Boise State University, the College of Saint Benedict, CUNY Queens College, the Georgia Institute of Technology, National University, Northwestern University, Skidmore College, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Tuskegee University, Union College, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Rhode Island and Willamette University.

This LLC has three major aims: using qualitative and quantitative data to identify barriers to student success; helping faculty devise equitable, inclusive and accessible teaching methods that foster greater student success; and evaluating the effectiveness of newly implemented teaching methods.

Initially, UMD will center its efforts on a learning community of faculty members and undergraduate students from across CMNS and the FIRE program. In future years, CMNS departments will have the opportunity to create their own IE3 learning communities to focus on discipline-specific challenges.

“Sustaining advances in diversity and inclusion requires a scientific culture that is centered on equity,” said Blanton Tolbert, HHMI’s vice president of science leadership and culture. “In science education, increasing the number of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds must go hand in hand with creating inclusive learning environments in which everyone can thrive.”

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