Oglethorpe University will receive $377,800 in funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to help foster its STEM community. 

HHMI announced on Nov. 30 that it would be awarding $8 million over six years to 14 institutions including Oglethorpe, according to a press release. The grant is part of the institute’s “Inclusive Excellence 3” program, which is the third round of grants of this type. Those institutions are expected to work towards HHMI’s goal of fostering a learning community for STEM and increasing their school’s inclusion of all students, especially those underrepresented in the sciences.  

“We are grateful for the mission of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence program and are eager to continue our efforts to increase students in STEM fields,” said Oglethorpe President Nick Ladany in the release. “This IE3 grant will make a significant impact and represents hundreds of hours of work by our faculty and staff to expand our efforts in STEM inclusion.”

According to the release, the 14 institutions will focus on improving training for STEM faculty, removing barriers in curriculum for STEM students, and developing mentoring programs. 

“Sustaining advances in diversity and inclusion requires a scientific culture that is centered on equity,” said Blanton Tolbert, HHMI’s vice president of science leadership and culture, in the release. “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.”

Dr. Karen Schmeichel, Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair and professor of biology at Oglethorpe, said this moment has been more than seven years in the making. Schmeichel and Dr. Laura Renee Chandler, Oglethorpe’s vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, were the program directors of the 10-person HHMI team that worked to submit the final proposal for the grant. 

“It’s a win-win for the institution,” Schmeichel said in the release. “This money is welcomed as an initial investment in Oglethorpe’s faculty and staff as they become recognized leaders in STEM education reform and commit themselves as advocates for students who have been historically underrepresented in STEM.”

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.