Rollins Receives Inclusive Excellence in STEM Grant

December 01, 2022

By Stephanie Rizzo ’09

Kasandra Riley and Brandon McNichol ’19 work together in a chemistry lab.
Photo by Scott Cook.

The six-year grant will support the College in its efforts to foster inclusivity and belonging for those who have been historically underrepresented in the sciences.

Rollins has been awarded a prestigious Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) grant totaling $529,500 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), making the College one of just 104 institutions across the nation to be recognized for its plan to build a more equitable future for burgeoning scientists.

The project connects faculty and students from the chemistry, biology, and physics departments to transform the introductory experience of Rollins STEM students. With this grant, the College becomes a member of one of seven Learning Community Clusters (LCC), which are integral to the collaborative IE3 approach. In the initial grant proposal, Rollins faculty outlined five overlapping areas of improvement to promote equity in STEM, including continuing education, inclusive curricula, student empowerment, inclusive collaboration, and broader approaches to institutional transformation.

One of the most exciting early developments to come from these initiatives is the creation of a student advisory panel. Using a data-driven approach, this group of student leaders will help faculty develop and implement equitable scientific practices and curriculums in the classroom.

“We’re excited about the achievement-oriented projects we’re proposing to build a stronger STEM community at Rollins and instill in all students a sense of belonging,” says chemistry professor Kasandra Riley, who is serving as the grant program director.

The HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative fosters a learning community of college and university faculty and administrators who are engaged in the process of increasing their institution’s capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in the sciences. Each school in the community commits to learning through reflection, sharing what is being learned, listening to feedback, and supporting other members of the community.

“Sustaining advances in diversity and inclusion requires a scientific culture that is centered on equity,” says Blanton Tolbert, HHMI’s vice president of science leadership and culture. “In science education, increasing the number of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds must go hand in hand with creating inclusive learning environments in which everyone can thrive.”

Over the past six years, HHMI has awarded more than $60 million in funding to institutions committed to building more inclusive practices in their STEM programs. Now in its third iteration, the grant will provide Rollins with funding for six years in an effort to promote diversity across multiple science-based disciplines.

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