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UMES among finalists in HHMI’s Driving Change Competition

  • UMES is only HBCU selected as competition finalists to drive culture change in STEM

    Friday, April 10, 2020
    Dr. Nancy Niemi, Provost

    The University of Maryland Eastern Shore has qualified as a finalist for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's (HHMI) Driving Change Initiative. HHMI is a “science philanthropy whose mission is to advance basic biomedical research and science education for the benefit of humanity.”

    UMES, a historically black university and land-grant institution with a R2 Carnegie Classification, is the only HBCU among the 38 finalists whose letter of intent was selected out of nearly 100 applicants. According to the HHMI, the goal of the Driving Change (DC) Initiative is to “drive genuine and lasting culture change on university campuses so undergraduate students from all backgrounds, particularly those who belong to historically excluded groups, will excel in STEM and graduate from college well prepared to pursue advanced degrees and eventually assume leadership roles in STEM.”

    UMES' research activity (R2 Carnegie Classification) was instrumental in opening the door for this opportunity as noted by Dr. Nancy Niemi, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

    “The opportunity was only open to Carnegie 1 and 2 institutions which means the research activity has to be at a high level or a very high level,” Niemi said. 

    The Driving Change competition consists of the following three interlocking elements: the development of a coherent set of activities that provides a robust framework to support student success in STEM, the creation of a more inclusive STEM learning environment that affects all STEM students at the university, and convening a learning community of institutions that are engaged in DC.

    UMES exhibits a shared vision for lasting institutional change as it relates to advancing diversity and inclusion in STEM through the diversity of faculty, its undergraduate and graduate catalog (over half of programs rooted in STEM) and programs such as the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, which provides ongoing academic and social support for students pursuing STEM majors.

    “My hope is for us to engage in genuine reflection as a university community regarding what we need to do to ensure our students can exude excellence in representing themselves and their professions in STEM,” said Niemi on UMES being named a finalist in the DC Initiative. “It will be a team effort.” 

    As a finalist, UMES will undergo a self-study to identify its good practices and ways the university can improve and drive culture change in the world of STEM. “This is a great opportunity to have the hard conversations and create actions from those conversations, specifically about inclusivity,” Niemi said. 

    The core leadership team for the DC Initiative guiding the self-study will consist of the following university members: Dr. S. Victor Hsia, Professor of Pharmacology; Dr. Nancy S. Niemi, Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs;  Dr. Rondall Allen, dean, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions; Hans Cooper, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Experience; Dr. Derrek Dunn, dean, School of Business and Technology; Dr. Lakeisha Harris, dean, Graduate Education and Acting Vice President of Research and Dr. Moses Kairo, dean, School of Agricultural & Natural Sciences. The self-study is due in early 2021.

    Ultimately, six institutions will be selected from the 38 finalists to receive $500,000 a year over six years. The funds must be used to help create culture change regarding STEM education on the campuses. 

    Awards are expected to be announced in Fall 2021.

    By Tahja Cropper