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Willamette University receives grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute to advance inclusion in STEM

by Office of Communications,

Student in lab

As part of a national initiative by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Science Education Program, Willamette University was awarded a six-year, $505,000 grant to promote teaching and learning that builds capacity for student belonging, especially for students from backgrounds that have been historically excluded from the sciences.

Willamette is one of 104 colleges and universities from across the country participating in multi-institute Learning Community Clusters, each of which has received collaborative grants totaling between $8-9 million over the six-year period as part of HHMI’s Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) initiative.

Willamette’s team — led by Associate Professor of Biology and Department Chair Melissa Marks, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Department Chair Katja Meyer, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Cooper Battle, and Professor of Psychology Jeremy Miller — have been working with a learning community of 15 institutions across the country that includes Skidmore College, University of Pennsylvania, Boise State University, National University, Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota, Georgia Institute of Technology, Tuskegee University, and Queens College. 

HHMI is one of the world’s largest private funding organizations for biological and medical research, and its IE3 initiative aims to help colleges and universities increase their capacity for inclusion and effect genuine and lasting cultural change on campuses so that students from all backgrounds feel that they belong and will thrive in the sciences. IE3 proposals were asked to address one of three challenges, and Willamette’s Learning Community Cluster will be exploring how to support, evaluate, and reward teaching and mentoring practices that advance inclusion in the STEM disciplines.

“It’s exciting that we can be part of this conversation and collectively work and learn alongside faculty and administrators at a variety of institutions,” said Marks. “We have a real opportunity to build systems that will improve diversity, equity, inclusivity, justice, and access on our campuses and beyond.” 

The grant from HHMI’s Science Education Program aligns with the College of Arts and Sciences’ commitment to incorporating principles of equity and inclusion into the evaluation of teaching effectiveness and growth as a teacher. It also complements Willamette University’s Strategic Plan, which highlights the goal to “educate students who reflect the full diversity of the region” by “eliminating barriers” to accessing a Willamette University education; the efforts of University’s newly-established Assistant Provost of Institutional Equity and Community Engagement; and the University’s belief that a diversity of perspectives in our classroom and campus leads to a diversity of thought that better prepares students for collaboration in a global society.

About the College of Arts & Sciences

Our historic campus next to the State Capitol in Salem houses a renowned residential arts and sciences college, and our downtown Portland campus houses the flagship Pacific Northwest College of Art. Professional graduate programs in Portland and Salem include the Northwest's oldest law school, Oregon's top-ranked MBA program, MA and MFA programs in the arts, writing and critical studies, and our MS in data science program.

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