Rice Receives $2.5m Grant to Support Inclusive STEM Education

Credit: Keith Weller

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) awarded Rice University with $2.5 million spanning over five years as part of its Driving Change initiative designed to connect research universities that are working to build inclusive learning environments for students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“I’m honored and grateful to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that Rice University was selected for the Driving Change initiative,” said Amy Dittmar, Howard R. Hughes Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Rice has laid the groundwork for student success, and this funding will allow us to teach math courses in an accessible way that is inclusive to all students and promotes equity in STEM. Students who are underrepresented, first-generation college students, Pell grant recipients, women and athletes should have the same opportunities for success as everyone else.”

The Driving Change initiative supports institutions that are creating long-lasting change to enable students of all backgrounds to excel in STEM. Rice is a research-intensive university where more than half of incoming students pursue STEM degrees.

“We want to teach our courses in a way so that they are accessible to everyone,” said Janet Braam, professor of biosciences, associate dean for strategic initiatives at the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and principal investigator for the grant. “We want everyone to succeed. We believe that every Rice student who aspires to be a STEM major can thrive in that major. Our role as faculty is to help them reach success.”

According to HHMI, this year’s awardees are recognized for developing culture change efforts that include new department-based equity action plans, living-learning communities, holistic advising programs and civic engagement programs, among many other undertakings.

Rice is one of six 2023 Driving Change awardees. Driving Change grant awardees are also members of the Driving Change Learning Community of 38 institutions who work together to create inclusive environments, support student success and recognize institutional practices that are barriers to inclusion.

Each grantee engages in a comprehensive approach to culture change with three interlocking elements:

● Participation in Driving Change Learning Community workshops, seminars and meetings.

● Institution-centered programs that improve the climate, policy or practices to increase the inclusivity of the university’s STEM learning environment.

● Student-centered programs that enable all students to succeed, universities to commit to and value that success and faculty to assume responsibility for the success of all students.

“Each of this year’s grantee institutions has demonstrated their dedication to carrying out critical, intensive work for the betterment of the wider world of STEM and STEM education,” said Sarah Simmons, HHMI program lead for Driving Change. “Part of this work includes a thorough self-study to ensure that each institution identifies its own unique needs. We are honored to be a part of a community with so many change-makers who are driven by the goal of making science and science education accessible to everyone.”

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