A $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), through their Inclusive Excellence initiative, will allow Davidson College increased capacity to cultivate and sustain environments in which all students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields can thrive. Davidson is one of 33 institutions to receive the competitive grant.
First-generation college students as well as underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities are over-represented among students entering college wanting to study STEM, yet woefully underrepresented among those who complete STEM baccalaureate and doctoral degrees.
"The importance of advancing diversity in science is not recent news," said David Asai, HHMI's senior director of science education. "Yet, after decades of efforts and billions of dollars spent on programs (e.g., NIH, NSF, HHMI), we aren't seeing enough progress. Indeed, despite some progress over the last few decades, because the demographics of the nation are changing so rapidly, we are actually falling further and further behind in terms of achieving parity with the nation's population. So we need a new strategy."
At Davidson, the grant will foster STEM faculty development in a variety of ways, including the collaborative examination of institutional structures that limit success in STEM. Specifically, this grant supports Davidson STEM instructors as they continue to improve their understandings of student experiences and infuse inclusive approaches throughout existing and new courses, powerfully improving STEM education and culture at Davidson in ways that will be sustainable and scalable past the five years of the grant's duration.
Davidson has both a strong and ongoing commitment to improving diversity, inclusivity and equity, as well as a robust track record of preparing talented scientists. The college and its faculty members are therefore well positioned to transform HHMI's support in ways that will improve Davidson's abilities to develop the next generation of great scientists.
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Biology Wendy Raymond is a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusivity throughout the sciences.
"Achieving diversity, inclusion and equity in STEM is not rocket science, yet it proves to be far more difficult to accomplish than rocket science," she said. "Many of Davidson's STEM faculty members have already improved teaching methods with this in mind, and they are supporting one another, which is foundational to this work and feeds into our potential success. Our faculty members are excited about taking this important work to new levels."
"Diverse backgrounds in the classroom bring new questions and new opportunities for discovery," said Davidson College President Carol E. Quillen. "Inclusivity in all areas of the liberal arts is essential, and the HHMI Inclusive Excellence grant allows us to explore how we can support our students as they explore their passions in STEM and ultimately address current and emerging challenges in the world."
Read more about the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative.