FRAMINGHAM -Framingham State University has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to fund a five-year project aimed at increasing the academic success and persistence of first-generation and underrepresented students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
“This is an incredible opportunity for the University to enhance its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Framingham State President F. Javier Cevallos. “Science and technology are crucial to the state’s innovation economy, but there is still a large achievement gap for first-generation and minority students training in these important fields. We are truly grateful to the Howard Hughes Institute for awarding us this grant as we seek to take important steps to close that gap.”
Framingham State University is one of just 33 schools across the country to receive a grant from the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative this year. Another 24 schools were selected in 2017.
“This initiative is about encouraging colleges and universities to change the way they do business – to become institutions with a significantly greater capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those from nontraditional backgrounds,” said HHMI President Erin O’Shea, in a press release.
The grant will fund the University’s Transparent Pathways in STEM project, which aims to redesign academic pathways and curricula in a way that removes obstacles to student success and levels the playing field for all students, particularly those from underrepresented groups.
The project will involve approximately 60 STEM faculty from Framingham State and MassBay Community College (FSU’s largest feeder school) in an evidence-based intensive faculty development model that will lead to improvements in the individual and collective faculty practice, creating a lasting culture of inclusive excellence in the STEM curriculum and faculty ranks. Most importantly, it will foster and create the faculty leadership that is critical for effecting a sizeable
impact to institutional culture.
“This extraordinary opportunity has come about because of the hard work and dedication of so many faculty and staff at FSU,” said Dr. Catherine Dignam, chair of Framingham State’s Chemistry and Food Science Department. “We believe that all students here, regardless of their background, are equally deserving of the highest quality education. This grant will give us the resources to make significant progress toward our goal of closing the achievement gap between students in STEM disciplines.”
“We are very excited to become part of the HHMI higher education community,” said Dr. Margaret Carroll, Dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at the University. “This grant will allow us to advance our commitment to diversity and inclusion in our STEM programs.”
During two rounds of selection in 2017 and 2018, HHMI received applications from 594 schools, according to the organization’s award announcement. Of these, 140 schools were invited to submit full proposals for plans to develop more inclusive environments for their students.
Framingham State is one of just two Massachusetts public colleges to receive the HHMI grant, along with the University of Massachusetts Amherst.