Million dollar grant encourages diversity in STEM programs

June 22, 2017

The University of Colorado Denver has been awarded $1 million in funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to improve learning outcomes for underrepresented first and second year college students studying science.

Part of HHMI’s Inclusive Excellence initiative, the grant will be used to improve Biology instruction and curriculum by incorporating more active learning opportunities and research experiences into introductory Biology classes. CU Denver is one of 24 higher education institutions awarded the 2017 Inclusive Excellence grant; over 500 colleges and universities applied.

Using grant funds, CU Denver will provide faculty with more professional development opportunities around inclusive teaching practices and identifying and removing barriers faced by underrepresented students, particularly in science fields. Student advising practices will also be updated using a proactive and data informed approach.

Additionally, curriculum reform will empower faculty to create more authentic learning experiences and research projects as part of student coursework.

“Our goal is to increase student success and reduce the equity gap in our general Biology classes,” said Rich Allen, Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Program Director on the award. “Ultimately, we aim to provide more experiences that help our students develop confidence, motivation, knowledge, a sense of belonging, and an identity as scientists.”

The HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative is designed to help colleges and universities encourage participation and cultivate the talent of students in the natural sciences. Grant applicants were challenged to identify the reasons students are excluded from science and find new ways to include students in opportunities to achieve science excellence.  In particular, the HHMI initiative focuses on those undergraduates who come to college from diverse backgrounds and pathways.

The HHMI funding comes at a time when CU Denver leadership is focused on student success and retention, which includes investments in curriculum, personnel and infrastructure, and software and data analytics.

“We’re using all the tools available to increase our institution’s cultural competence, particularly as it relates to student success in STEM fields,” said Allen. “We’re working to ensure that our students have access to the right courses, at the right time, and with the right academic and personal support to meet their needs.”