Driving Change

The goal of Driving Change is to effect genuine and lasting culture change on research university campuses so that 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.

Phase 2 Institutions Named

HHMI makes first Driving Change grants, awarding $2.5 million each to six universities

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This initiative encourages a comprehensive approach to culture change with three interlocking elements: (i) the Driving Change (DC) Learning Community, (ii) institution-centered programming that will significantly increase the inclusivity of the university’s STEM learning environment; and (iii) student-centered programs that enable all students to succeed, the university to commit to and value that success, and the faculty to assume responsibility for the success of all students1. The initiative will now occur in two phases: Phase 1, initiation of the DC Learning Community and institutional self-studies, and Phase 2, a small number of DC Grantees continue the work of DC in partnership with the Learning Community.

The DC initiative recognizes that the work of continuous reflection, learning, and self-study, which is foundational to successful institutional change, must occur in a context vastly different from 2019 when we began the initiative- institutions of higher education are grappling with the effects of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 and the implications for higher education of elevated national awareness of systemic oppression, institutional racism, and anti-Black racism.

The epic events of 2020 have changed how we see EVERYTHING… but why did it take events of this magnitude for widespread acknowledgement of weaknesses within our higher education system, especially those weaknesses that have long been impacting groups of students historically excluded and marginalized in STEM? What are the ways in which organizations, institutions and cultures work to keep the status quo? How is racism is embedded in and upheld at our institutions?

We believe that time with questions like these represents part of what is profoundly new and different about the un-paused DC initiative. These kinds of questions will be the lens through which we will encourage institutions to view their self-study data and the best practices that have been established though successful student-centered programs like the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program. We will be encouraging the community to be critical, curious, and creative in their approach to DC.

[1] Based on the outcomes of the UMBC Meyerhoff Scholars Program, See Maton, K. I., Pollard, S. A., McDougall Weise T.V., and Hrabowski, F.A. (2012). Meyerhoff Scholars Program: a strengths-based, institution-wide approach to increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, New York, 79 (5): 610–623. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444508/

In early 2020, we received and reviewed 99 Letters of Intent. From these, we invited 38 universities to join in Phase 1 of this initiative.  As we progress through Phases 1 and 2, we will evaluate the effectiveness of the current approach, and that evaluation will inform our plans for future competitions.

To be eligible for the HHMI Driving Change competition, an institution met all of the following requirements:

  • Is a not-for-profit doctoral-granting university designated as “very high research activity” (R1) and “high research activity” (R2) institutions in the 2018 Carnegie Classification.
  • Confers a four-year baccalaureate degree in one or more of the STEM disciplines.
  • Is accredited and in good standing with the appropriate regional accrediting organization.

Driving Change (DC) will occur in two phases. Phase 1 brings together the 38 universities as a Learning Community to support each other in the work of Driving Change. Phase 2 will be comprised of a subset of finalists that are awarded additional funds to move forward their proposals. Those participating in Phase 2 will continue to participate with the Learning Community established in Phase 1.

In Phase 1, HHMI aims to create a community whose members will support one another as we work to create inclusive environments, support student success, and recognize the institutional practices that are barriers to inclusion. Each of us must come to terms with the ways we and our institutional structures have excluded persons. With this deepened perspective, we can then re-examine programs that have been successful at changing structures and overcoming barriers to achieve goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must be curious about how and why some programs achieve the desired outcomes and what implications there are for how they will work within our individual institutional contexts. It is our hope, then, that Driving Change institutions will identify ways to significantly push the boundaries of what is possible on their campuses.

Phase 1 Components

  1. Learning Community: HHMI hopes to establish a community whose members will support one another as we work to create inclusive environments, support student success, and recognize the institutional practices that are barriers to inclusion. HHMI has allocated new resources to these efforts, and the Learning Grants are meant to support this work.
  1. Institutional Self Study: Although this component remains unchanged from the original framework, the dual pandemics of 2020 – COVID and the heightened national awareness of the impacts of systemic racism – offer a time for deep reflection by the scientific and educational communities. The institutional Self Study—which will be a central element in Driving Change Phase 2 proposals—is a timely and important opportunity for the university to bring to the forefront issues of diversity, inclusion, and race, and to develop a deep understanding of the strengths and challenges of the institution. We are hopeful that the self-study discussions on each campus will convey “Where are we?” and “Where do we want to be?” in diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM.

Guide for Institutional Self Study

Institutional Self Study Webinar

  1. Learning Grants: HHMI has provided a $50,000 Learning Grant to each finalist institution that has committed to engage in the Phase 1 work with HHMI. These funds are intended to support institutional teams' participation in the Learning Community and to support taking the understanding they develop as part of the community back to engage differently with their colleagues on campus.
  2. HHMI Commitments: As partners in this work, we continue to examine and acknowledge our role in systems that uphold inequity and racism, that we need to be more specific in how we contextualize our work around diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that we need to be more intentional and explicit about race and racism. We each have committed to participate intentionally as full partners in the Driving Change Learning Community.

We believe that a successful Phase 1 will help institutions develop ideas and prepare for Phase 2. By the end of Phase 1, it is our hope that each participating institution will have:

  • increased personal competency in equity-mindedness among institutional leaders and faculty across campus, and increased capacity on campus for developing equity-mindedness among faculty and staff;
  • developed a deep understanding of the University in the context of Driving Change through the self-study, analysis of disaggregated data, and engagement with campus stakeholders;
  • constructed a plan for Driving Change that leverages an understanding of how to use their self-study to lead long-term change to develop a concrete strategy, including goals and metrics for measuring progress; and
  • become part of a Community invested in Driving Change.

In Phase 2, we invited the 38 institutions that participated in Phase 1 to develop and submit a proposal for a five-year grant. Each of these institutions engaged for at least a year in an institutional self-study alongside their participation in the Driving Change Learning Community.

In fall 2022, HHMI awarded Driving Change grants to six institutions

Each Driving Change grantee university will be expected to achieve three objectives:   

  1. continue to participate in a learning community comprising the Driving Change universities to share aspirations, experiences, and progress; 
  2. develop institution-centered programming that will significantly increase the inclusivity of the university’s STEM learning environment; and 
  3. create a student-centered program aimed at achieving the outcomes of the UMBC Meyerhoff Scholars Program (MYSP) in the context of the Driving Change institution. 

Each grant provides up to $500,000 per year for five years and is non-renewable.   

These grants are intended to provide “start-up” funds to assist the grantee institution as it launches its Driving Change program. The grant does not pay for student tuition and fees, nor does it provide indirect costs to the grantee institutions. The grantee university will carefully assess its progress, evaluate its program, and initiate strategies that will sustain progress beyond the duration of the HHMI grant. 

Institutions that were not awarded or did not apply in Round 1 are eligible to submit a proposal in Round 2.

Why HHMI is excited about the approach of the 6 new grantees:

Many universities that engage in work to advance excellence and equity in STEM higher education often ground this work in a culture where “excellence” is synonymous with exclusion.

From our perspective, universities must examine their policies and behaviors to understand if and how they facilitate or impede the inclusive advancement of excellence in STEM. Assessments of institutional history and values are important first steps. These efforts can help institutions identify gaps and articulate a comprehensive vision of inclusion, rather than placing the burden on the students and faculty who add diversity to the campus.

For the first round of Driving Change grants, it was important that applicants communicate a commitment to an inclusive vision, convey a deep understanding of their institutional context, and demonstrate readiness to begin this work.

Proposals from each of the selected institutions shared several characteristics:

  • They reveal a deep understanding of their historical context, barriers, and strengths/weaknesses of their institutions in relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion,  
  • They effectively incorporated the findings of their self-study and an understanding of the existing STEM ecosystem to provide a rationale for their proposed activities, and  
  • They clearly identified indicators that can be used to measure progress, assess whether the proposed activities are leading to the desired outcomes, and promote long-term sustainability.

Loyola Marymount University

A private university in Los Angeles, LMU has an excellent track record for providing STEM education to students from groups that have been historically excluded from STEM. Their graduation rate for such students is more than three times the national average. However, their self-study showed there are still disparities in opportunity and inclusion. LMU’s approach stands out in that institutional change efforts will focus on shifting faculty beliefs and skill sets through STEM faculty learning communities that are strategically tied to leadership and teaching roles. 

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The Ohio State University

OSU demonstrated a particularly deep understanding of their context and history around DEI efforts. They have a strong base of prior efforts and have identified where those may have fallen short. A key feature of their proposal is a well-thought-out student program with wraparound support for STEM scholars and a comprehensive plan to address the institutional barriers identified in their self-study. Their plan is exciting in that it directly addresses systemic racism and is conceptually grounded in a model for change that could potentially be useful for other institutions. 

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University at Albany

The University at Albany is experiencing a rapid shift in student population; the number of students from groups historically excluded from STEM has risen 40 percent in the last few years. They used their self-study to identify ways to change their current culture and identified structural and systemic barriers to student success that can be addressed. This proposal is an exciting combination of institutional change efforts mapped to identified institutional barriers and a student program powerfully reconceptualized for their unique context.  

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University of Maryland Eastern Shore

A public HBCU with 50 percent of undergraduates majoring in STEM fields, UMES’s proposal holds promise and potential for high impact through its emphasis on student programming as a focal point for faculty training and as a mechanism to build a campus “culture of discovery.” A particular strength of their proposal is an intentional emphasis on institutional culture change as they develop their student programming with the goals of: (a) re-establishing an institutional identity that prioritizes DEI in STEM; (b) creating an equity-based institutional learning environment; (c) developing practices and policies that support an equity agenda; and (d) ensuring that faculty are active participants in the environment. 

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University of Montana

This proposal explicitly focuses on improving higher education experiences for Native American students. The applicants have developed an understanding that “assimilation programming” has not been effective at their institution. They are taking a different approach that seeks to change the institution while concurrently supporting students through creative interventions that respond to needs identified in their comprehensive self-study. Institutional change efforts will focus on expanding knowledge and intercultural understanding among faculty and staff, along with activities such as place-based education visits, an Indigenous Mentoring Program, and a Ways of Knowing course.  

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University of Virginia

UVA carried out a thorough self-study that included extensive examination of student performance data, analysis of student experience data, analysis of faculty perception data, and evaluation of student bridge and research programs. These efforts have led to a deep understanding of the institution's historical context of diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM. Their proposal focused on confronting institutional norms among faculty and students with an explicit focus on departmental change teams. A unique approach among the applicants, it is strongly supported by current research on institutional change and is a potential model for institutional change efforts.

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HHMI’s goal is to foster a learning community whose members will share a commitment to drive institutional culture change with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion; share ideas, growth, challenges and progress as they continue their institutional-self-studies in a supportive and inclusive space; and encourage personal and institutional learning through peer-to-peer conversations.

Each Driving Change team has committed to:

  1. ensuring that their efforts to advance diversity and inclusion will include an examination of race and structural racism in the context of their university,
  2. making possible and encouraging the participation of the leadership team and institutional leadership in Driving Change convenings,
  3. coming to meetings ready to engage in critical conversations and approach this work with open minds and curiosity,
  4. continuing to engage in a critical self-study, the costs for which will be the responsibility of the university, and
  5. developing a strategy to address Phase 2 of Driving Change.

Learning Community Members

American University
Boston University
Brandeis University
Brown University
City College of New York
Clarkson University
Clemson University
Dartmouth College
Florida International University
Illinois State University
Louisiana State University
Loyola Marymount University
Northern Illinois University
Ohio State University
Oklahoma State University
Rice University
Rutgers University - Camden
Tufts University
University at Albany
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas - Fayetteville
University of California, Davis
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Connecticut
University of Dayton
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Montana
University of Texas at San Antonio
University of Utah
University of Vermont
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Vanderbilt University
Washington University in St. Louis
Wayne State University

Program Information

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