A $1 million grant for excellence and inclusion in STEM

Faculty are developing a multi-faceted approach to increase success rates for under-represented students

Celebration photo

WWU Faculty members who wrote the grant application celebrate receiving Western’s Team Achievement Award. They are (from top to bottom, left-right):  Robin Kodner (biology), Dan Pollard (biology), Spencer Anthony-Cahill (chemistry), Suzanne Lee (biology), Shannon Warren (Science, Math, And Technology Education, SMATE), Regina Barber-DeGraaf (physics/astronomy), Jackie Rose (psychology), Dan Hanley (SMATE), Joann Otto (biology), Emily Borda (chemistry, SMATE), Jessica Cohen (math), Ed Geary (SMATE), Lina Dahlberg (biology), Jose Serrano (biology), David Leaf (biology).  Not pictured:  Bernie Housen (geology).

A new five-year, $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence Program began in September with the goal to enhance student success in STEM fields, especially for those students typically under-represented in the natural sciences.

Under-represented minority students, female students, and first-generation students in the natural sciences have lower success rates than university averages. Western’s HHMI IE team of STEM faculty, led by Biology Professor Emerita Joann Otto, proposed a multi-faceted approach, including establishing student cohorts and mentorship opportunities, providing professional development in student-centered learning for faculty and teaching assistants, and analyzing policies and procedures to identify issues that get in the way of student success.

“All of our strategies are designed to be sustainable so they will continue after the five years of grant support are over,” Otto says. “Ultimately, we anticipate the demographics of majors graduating in the natural sciences will mirror those of the university and our community as a whole.”