HHMI awards Elon inclusive excellence grant promoting DEI in STEM
Elon University was awarded a six-year, $377,800 grant through Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) initiative to pioneer inclusion and belonging practices in STEM education. Elon is a member of a 14-institution Learning Community Cluster focusing on first-year STEM experiences and teaching strategies that grow success for students from all backgrounds.
Nearly 1 million students annually enter college to pursue STEM majors. More than half — disproportionately first-generation college students, community college transfers, and those from historically excluded ethnic and racial groups — do not complete STEM degrees.
The team of College faculty spearheading Elon’s work includes Associate Professor of Chemistry Jen Dabrowski, Professor of Engineering Sirena Hargrove-Leak, Associate Professor of Biology Jen Uno, Senior Lecturer in Statistics Ryne VanKrevelen, Assistant Provost for Scholarship and Creative Activity and Professor of Psychology Amy Overman, Dean of Elon College Gabie Smith, and Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams.
Institutions in Elon’s cluster are: Fairfield University, Fisk University, Fort Lewis College, Hamilton College (New York), Oglethorpe University, Otterbein University, Portland State University, Simmons University, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota-Morris, University of New Mexico-Main Campus and Xavier University (Ohio).
Elon is among 104 colleges and universities in seven clusters selected to receive more than $60 million in IE3 grants.
Donor gifts expand access to student experiences in psychology
The Department of Psychology harnessed its gift account to provide equity in students’ access to experiences and relationship-rich mentoring. In 2022-23, the department dedicated more than $5,000 towards internships, conference attendance and presentations. It provided $1,000 student stipends to offset the cost of unpaid internships; $500 funding matches from the Office of Undergraduate Research for student travel to professional conferences; covering all printing costs for research posters for SURF Day and professional conferences; and supporting faculty mentoring and travel to conferences with mentees and student groups.
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Faculty continue NSF-funded study for community college STEM transfers
Professor of Engineering Sirena Hargrove-Leak, Associate Professor of Biology Jen Hamel and Assistant Professor of Biology Jessica Merricks are leading a multi-year study to identify pathways to Elon from Alamance Community College Early College Program. Their work is funded by a $142,238 National Science Foundation award through its S-STEM program, which provides scholarships to low-income, high-achieving students.
Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, the team surveyed students and faculty at the community college and convened listening sessions to identify areas of action to recruit and retain STEM transfer students. They plan to present results to the NSF this winter and apply for additional funding to implement the plan.
College pilots Elon Women in STEM professional development program
The College partnered with Accelerate Success to pilot Elon Women in STEM to increase the representation of women and female-identifying employees in STEM fields. The peer-mentoring and professional development program is aimed at female-identifying students in STEM programs, but open to all STEM majors regardless of identity. Terri Mitchell — founder of Accelerate Success, a member of Elon’s Engineering Advisory Board and retired IBM executive — led the initiative with Dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences Gabie Smith and the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for Elon College Laurie Judge. Programming in the first year included internship and professional skills development, career navigation strategies and social events.
Other actions advancing belonging included:
Faculty in the Department of Biology promoted community in the program through McMichael Mondays informal gatherings, internship and seminar poster sessions, faculty flash talks and discussions, and other events. Monthly “How to Succeed in Biology” workshops focused on study skills, research and internship application fundamentals and test preparation.
The Drama and Theatre Studies Program continued its Contemporary Play Reading and Discussion Series featuring works from underrepresented playwrights. The five plays analyzed included senior acting major Anna Gullon’s semi-autobiographical “The Lucky Cat.” The program also maintained the DTS Lending Library, which allows all students access to borrow copies of plays each semester instead of purchasing them.
Dance performance and choreography and dance science faculty updated curricula to advance DEI initiatives with new courses, including four courses in the cultural importance and technique of West African dance.
The Department of World Languages and Cultures held monthly coffee gatherings in Carlton Commons for students, faculty and staff to connect.
Elon Day donations and gifts allowed the Arts Administration Program to increase stipends for student internships. The program awarded $4,000 to majors to offset the cost of housing, travel and expenses while participating in unpaid internships.
The Department of Exercise Science hosted monthly “Chats Towards Change and Understanding” discussions, informal events for faculty, staff and students from any major with the goal of creating dialogue that leads to action.
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics renovated its student lounge and held weekly gatherings. The department also developed a database of inclusive teaching practices for faculty to share strategies and outcomes. The department’s Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion, led by Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Heather Barker, created the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives in Introductory Statistics Inventory, a survey sent to introductory statistics instructors nationwide.
The Department of Religious Studies created and hired a new tenure-track position with a focus on Race and Religion. Faculty mentored Odyssey scholars, LGBTQIA+ students, and students from minoritized religious and cultural identities, as well as leading institutional initiatives for inclusion and belonging.