Four faculty in the College of Sciences have received new funding to help foster student belonging at Georgia Tech. The team’s six-year grant is part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence 3 initiative, and is one of 104 new grants funded through an overall initiative that’s allocating $60 million over six years and several phases.
“HHMI’s challenge to us addresses a critical need in U.S. higher education, and it is aligned with Georgia Tech’s strategic plan,” says David Collard, senior associate dean in the College and lead researcher for effort at Tech. “The grant to Georgia Tech will support a team effort in pursuing a number of complementary projects.”
Collard is joined by College of Sciences co-investigators Jennifer Leavey, assistant dean for Faculty Mentoring; Carrie Shepler, assistant dean for Teaching Effectiveness; and Professor Lewis Wheaton, inaugural director of the Center for Promoting Inclusion and Equity in the Sciences at Georgia Tech. Collard and Shepler also serve as faculty members in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Leavey and Wheaton in the School of Biological Sciences.
Inclusive Excellence 3
As the third phase of the HHMI program, Inclusive Excellence 3, known as IE3, 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 also distinct from previous HHMI science education initiatives because it begins with a learning phase and, during that phase, learning communities envision how to move cooperatively into an implementation phase.
The grant will uniquely challenge groups to work collaboratively to address one of three broad efforts. At Georgia Tech, the Colleges of Sciences team will work with institutions across the country to help empower colleges and universities to develop and support systems that cultivate teaching and learning with DEIJA — diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and access — at the heart of academics.
At Georgia Tech, each IE3 team member will concentrate on a distinct area of work.
Leavey will focus on “working with collaborators from other institutions to share faculty development strategies focused on inclusive teaching, such as the Inclusive STEM Teaching Fellows program ,” she shares, “which the College of Sciences piloted last spring along with the Center for Teaching Learning, the College of Engineering, the College of Computing, and the Office of Institute Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Leavey adds that, a semester after its launch, the Fellows program is already generating interest across campus and at collaborating institutions.
Shepler will work to assist faculty in determining the impact of their inclusive teaching efforts.
“Throughout the project, our aim is to make sure that students have a voice in defining what it means for them to experience teaching that centers diversity, equity, inclusivity, justice, and accessibility,” Shepler says.
Now, she’s working with collaborators to develop an iterative process to help institutions create formative assessment methodologies for teaching and learning, that both facilitate and prioritize DEIJA in a manner that is consistent with institutional values and missions.
The work coincides with a goal of the College of Sciences’ new Teaching Effectiveness, Advocacy, and Mentoring — TEAM — committee, which Shepler leads, to “develop or adapt new processes for the evaluation of teaching that are inclusive and equitable for all faculty.”
Meanwhile, Wheaton’s work as the director of the Center for Promoting Inclusion and Equity in the Sciences — C-PIES, for short — will inform and supplement Leavey and Shepler’s goals for the grant.
Wheaton will also lead a competitive C-PIES Faculty Fellows program that focuses on innovative teaching and research ideas that can transform student learning using principles in DEIJA, he shares.
“The Center will sponsor approximately five C-PIES Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellows in this effort,” he explains. “I am excited to work with our faculty on ways we can develop new approaches to engage our students. This is an exciting direction that will provide the tools to develop assessment of DEIJA in our curriculum, leading to a culture that emphasizes and facilitates a growth mindset of continued development.”
Ultimately, the researchers hope to leverage the Inclusive Excellence Grant to transform teaching and learning for faculty and students of today — and of tomorrow.
“Though much of the HHMI work will focus on faculty, particularly those in instructional roles, the potential impact of these efforts is on the learning experiences of future generations of students,” adds Collard, the grant lead. “I look forward to seeing how the project develops — and how it fosters changes that support student, and faculty, success.”