Inclusive Excellence 3 Learning Community

The HHMI Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) initiative challenges U.S. colleges and universities to substantially and sustainably build their capacity for student belonging, especially for those who have been historically excluded from the sciences. IE3 is distinct from previous HHMI science education initiatives because it begins with a learning phase and, during that phase, learning communities will envision how to move cooperatively into an implementation phase.

Our Challenge

The dynamic demographics of the U.S. population present a historic and compelling opportunity. All students, regardless of where they come from and where they are going, deserve a meaningful and positive experience in science through which they will better understand and engage in scientific thinking and discovery. The quality of that experience is the responsibility of the faculty and administrators who play an essential role in defining an institution’s culture.

Unfortunately, there exist substantial disparities between students who arrive at college via different pathways. Students who are first in their families to attend college, students who transfer from 2-year to 4-year schools, and students from racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups underrepresented in science are significantly less likely to complete the baccalaureate degree.

Our Approach

Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) is the third round of IE funding which will provide institutional grants to incentivize four-year colleges and universities to build capacity for inclusion on their own campuses. 

An important aim of IE3 is to create a learning community of college and university faculty, staff, students, and administrators who are engaged in the continuing process of increasing their institution’s capacity for inclusion and commit to learning through reflection, sharing what is being learned, listening to feedback, and supporting other members of the community. 

The IE3 learning community works together in Learning Community Clusters (LCCs), each of which focuses on one of three IE3 challenges: 

  1. Meaningful evaluation of effective and inclusive teaching, which will inform faculty practices, including promotion and tenure decisions 
  2. Content of the introductory science experience, which embodies inclusive learning 
  3. Effective partnerships between 2- and 4-year institutions, which grow from existing relationships 

During the first phase of the initiative, LCCs developed approaches to address their selected IE3 challenge and built relationships to become an inclusive, supportive community.  During the second phase, the learning communities design and implement approaches to address the three challenges, engage in the continuous work of developing relationships, and collectively explore what it takes to build capacity for inclusion. 

Our Beginnings

When HHMI initially launched IE3 in April 2019, we intended it to be the third installment of the Inclusive Excellence initiative. Our plan was to conduct a competition following our standard process—soliciting pre-proposals from eligible institutions, selecting finalists who would be invited to submit full proposals, and finally choosing no more than 30 of the finalists to receive grants which were scheduled to begin in the fall of 2021.


In January 2020, we received 354 pre-proposals. Because of the COVID outbreak, the IE3 competition was suspended in spring 2020. The pause in the competition presented an important opportunity to re-structure the initiative so that it could support institutional culture change through cycles of reflection, learning, and accountability.

During the pause, we recognized that we have an opportunity to expand how we encourage institutional change. Rather than rely on a competition mindset, we seek to support diverse learning communities of institutions that will develop and implement strategies to address their common challenges through an emergent, collaborative process. We believe that if the learning communities define their own success and hold one another accountable for their collective learning and outcomes, then there is high potential for them to challenge the underlying assumptions and values that determine, direct, and govern institutional behavior and fundamentally change the culture.

Revised Model

During summer 2020, reviewers identified 108 institutions that were invited in early 2021 to join us in forming a learning community and in developing a collective ownership of the initiative. The institutions were grouped into seven Learning Community Clusters (LCC) and each institution was awarded a small grant to support on-campus learning and exploration. The member institutions of each LCC have been working together to understand their selected challenge, identify barriers, and share ideas on how to dismantle those barriers. They are developing relationships and working to create supportive, inclusive environments in which they can share, challenge, and learn from and with one another. In spring 2022, the seven LCCs are designing collaborative projects which will lead to awarding six-year grants to each of the 104 participating institutions.

For Future Applicants

At this time, HHMI is not accepting new IE3 proposals. We will be working with the current community of 104 for the next couple of years. What we learn from the community will inform whether and how we might form a new learning community in the future.

Community Focus

Because diversity is a property of a group and not an individual, the power of diversity is realized only through the collective impact of the community, and is not fully realized if we rely on isolated individuals or siloed institutions. Inclusive diversity depends on community.

Learning Community Clusters (LCCs)

Each of the 106 institutions that made a commitment in March 2021 to the IE3 learning community was assigned to a Learning Community Cluster (LCC). LCCs are groups of approximately 15 institutions organized by the IE3 challenge they selected in their pre-proposal and include a diverse mix of degree-granting institution types. The diverse LCC groupings are intended to maximize learning so that their differences allow them collectively to be a powerful force for change.

It will be up to each LCC to figure out how to listen to the strengths that lie within each of their members, support one another in uncertainty, challenge one another to dig deeper, and hold one another accountable in ways that allow each person’s and each team’s wisdom to surface, be heard and valued. HHMI provided each of the 106 members of the IE3LC a small learning grant to support on-campus self-study and learning and each LCC funds to support the members to learn with and from one another. As of spring 2022, there are 104 institutions in the seven LCCs moving into the implementation phase of the initiative.

Challenges and Participating Institutions

Challenge: Content of the introductory science experience, which embodies inclusive learning.

Learning Community Cluster 1
California State University-Stanislaus
Dalton State College
Fordham University
Franklin & Marshall College
Furman University
Gannon University
Haverford College
Illinois State University
Middlebury College
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
SUNY Empire State College
Trinity University
Universidad Ana G. Mendez-Cupey Campus
University of California-Riverside
University of California-Santa Cruz
Learning Community Cluster 2
Elon University
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
Xavier University (Ohio)
Learning Community Cluster 3
Allegheny College
Auburn University at Montgomery
California State University-East Bay
College of the Holy Cross
Emmanuel College (Massachusetts)
Hartwick College
Mount Holyoke College
Nebraska Wesleyan University
Rollins College
St. John's University-New York
University of Akron Main Campus
University of Kansas
University of Virginia-Main Campus
Vanderbilt University

Challenge: Meaningful evaluation of effective and inclusive teaching, which will inform faculty practices, including promotion and tenure decisions.

Learning Community Cluster 4
Bryn Mawr College
Georgia Gwinnett College
Georgia Southern University
Gettysburg College
Gustavus Adolphus College
North Carolina A & T State University
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Pomona College
Providence College
University of Georgia
University of La Verne
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus
University of Oregon
University of Portland
Whittier College
Learning Community Cluster 5
Bryn Mawr College
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo
Centre College
Cleveland State University
Coker University
Drexel University
Georgia State University
Lane College
Marian University (Indiana)
Occidental College
The College of Wooster
University of California-Irvine
University of Connecticut
University of Mississippi
University of Richmond
West Virginia University
Learning Community Cluster 6
Boise State University
College of Saint Benedict
CUNY Queens College
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus
National University
Northwestern University
Skidmore College
St. Mary's College of Maryland
Tuskegee University
Union College (New York)
University of Maryland College Park
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
University of Pennsylvania
University of Rhode Island
Willamette University

Challenge: Effective partnerships between 2- and 4-year institutions, which grow from existing relationships.

Learning Community Cluster 7
Clemson University
Florida International University
Florida State University
Howard University
King University
Michigan State University
Monmouth College
Montana State University
Rowan University
State University of New York at New Paltz
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Nevada-Reno
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
University of Wyoming
Washington State University-Vancouver

By Campus

Members of each institution’s IE3 team have made a commitment to work together in order to:

  • adopt an inclusive, equitable, and antiracist stance through a process of listening, reflection, and accountability;
  • examine their institution’s historical context, current environment, and future aspirations;
  • develop a strategy to address the selected IE3 challenge; and
  • align their work with efforts already taking place at their institution.

By Learning Community Cluster

The members of each institutional team have committed to actively participate in their assigned Learning Community Cluster in order to:

  • create a supportive and inclusive space for campus leaders from different institutions to share their ideas, struggles, and progress;
  • hold one another accountable to adopt a mindset that welcomes examination of ideas through an anti-racist, equitable and inclusive lens, as well as giving and receiving candid feedback;
  • embrace cooperation and an abundance mindset in order to support one another and help guide the way investments are made in future phases of IE3; and
  • work together to develop LCC learning activities, which will be supported by HHMI funds.