14:29 PM

Ohio State receives $2.5M grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute to advance STEM education

Funding will develop new support systems to enhance student success

The Ohio State University has been selected as one of six institutions to receive a $2.5 million Driving Change grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Established in 2019, Driving Change works with universities to create a more inclusive STEM learning environment.   

“By taking part in the Driving Change initiative, Ohio State will transform STEM education and prepare a diverse student body for the modern workforce and graduate and professional programs,” said Melissa L. Gilliam, executive vice president and provost. “This distinction demonstrates Ohio State’s commitment to reimagining our courses, supporting our instructors, and developing new support systems that will enable student success and spark lifelong curiosity.”

After HHMI launched Driving Change in 2019, nearly 100 research universities submitted pre-proposals, from which 38 were selected as finalists and formed a learning community of academic leaders across the institutions. Of the 38, Ohio State is one of only six institutions to receive a first-round Driving Change grant, which recognizes the institution as being committed to progress for inclusive STEM learning environments. 

Susan Olesik, dean of natural and mathematical sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, led the development of Ohio State’s proposal. 

“Our intent is to provide inclusive instruction and support that launches highly successful STEM careers,” said Olesik.

Charlene Gilbert, senior vice provost for student academic excellence, and James Moore III, who served as Ohio State’s vice provost for diversity and inclusion from 2017-2022, also supported the grant proposal. Wendy Smooth, senior vice provost for inclusive excellence, and Yolanda Zepeda, interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion, will join Gilbert and Olesik in the strategic implementation and evaluation of the grant.

The grant will support three programs:

STEM Leaders and Scholars
A STEM Emerging Leadership Fellows program (SELF) will be housed in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) to improve Ohio State’s readiness for SELF students. All incoming fellows will participate in a two-week residential, early-arrival program that will build early relationships with other STEM scholars, provide them with specific academic success strategies and resources for academic excellence in STEM, and introduce them to a range of faculty, staff, students and alumni who are eager to assist in their growth. Components of the SELF program will include access to personal advising and success coaching, faculty engagement and industry involvement, professional development opportunities, the first-year early arrival program and orientation, academic tutoring and supplemental instruction, career readiness and internship opportunities, education abroad and global experiences.

Institutional Change
The grant will focus on developing opportunities to engage first-year college students who belong to historically excluded groups, committing to institutional change, and improving student support and engagement through curricular and instructional change, integrating racial and social justice and DEI into the curriculum, transformative pedagogies for gateway STEM courses, faculty and instructor support, gateway instructor communities of practice, course policies and practices, communities of practice, enhanced training of teaching assistants and STEM advisers. These groups will be enabled to function as change agents.

Student Support and Engagement
Funds will be used to develop a STEM Gateway Learning Center to expand mentoring opportunities, help students develop community and foster STEM identity. The new center will focus on success within gateway science and math courses. It will provide drop-in tutoring, offer structured study groups, and provide space for teaching assistant office hours, group study and tutoring, and quiet individual study. Undergraduate peer leaders will be trained by experts in a Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning course that will run concurrently with the functioning of the study groups. Training will focus on inclusive instruction, as well as challenges experienced by minoritized or first-generation students.

In addition, Ohio State will be providing renovated active learning classrooms and significant support to ensure the success of the project. 

“The careful and thoughtful analysis the planning team invested in the program design enables the true power of this award,” said Gilbert. “By leveraging structural investments from Ohio State, we will strengthen our commitment to our students through distinctive programs and reimagine what STEM education can look like at a model land-grant university.”

Added David Horn, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, "The grant from HHMI accelerates our college’s efforts to create inclusive cultures that will enable all students to flourish. This work has the potential to change the face of STEM fields for generations to come.”

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