CBMG/CMNS Spotlight - DEI-Related HHMI Grant Awarded to CMNS/TLTC Team

We are thrilled to share that the College of CMNS recently received a $505K grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to build students’ persistence and success in STEM. The initiative is being led by Kaci Thompson and Gili Marbach-Ad from the College of CMNS and Marco Molinaro from the UMD Teaching and Learning Transformation Center. As many of you know, we’ve been very fortunate to have received multiple grants from HHMI over the past 30 years, totaling over $10 million. These grants have supported undergraduate research opportunities, improvements to upper-level biological sciences laboratories, the development of math and physics courses specifically tailored to the needs of biological sciences students, and the creation of the CMNS Teaching and Learning Center. This grant, which extends through 2028, focuses on creating a more inclusive and welcoming educational environment for students, which research shows to be positively associated with their academic success and attainment of STEM degrees.


The grant differs from our past HHMI grants in that it is a collaborative effort: we are part of a 15-institution cluster that is working together on three inter-related projects. The first project focuses on the evaluation of effective and inclusive teaching – how does an instructor know if their teaching is effective for students from varying backgrounds? The second project focuses on looking at data on educational outcomes and student perceptions of the learning environment as a way of identifying the teaching strategies and aspects of course structure that best support student learning. The third project focuses on faculty professional development in teaching – how can we spread awareness of effective teaching practices and support faculty who want to make changes to their teaching strategies or course structure?


In this first year of the project, we have gathered a group of tenured/tenure-track faculty and professional track faculty, representing all 10 CMNS departments (photo below), who have been meeting regularly to learn about institutional structures and practices that create inequities in student success in STEM fields, identify sources of data that are useful for characterizing the extent to which learning environments are equitable and inclusive, and discuss strategies for creating welcoming and supportive learning environments.


We are now meeting with the chairs and key faculty and staff from each CMNS department to discuss how we might scale up these efforts. We are hoping to visit a faculty meeting in each department over the course of the next semester, and then begin forming department- or program-based faculty learning communities to explore these issues in greater depth.


We welcome your questions, ideas, and feedback! 


Dr. Kaci Thompson, Assistant Dean, Science Education Initiatives; Director, BioFIRE (kaci@umd.edu)

Dr. Gili Marbach-Ad, Director, CMNS Teaching & Learning Center

Dr. Marco Molinaro, Executive Director for Educational Effectiveness and Analytics, TLTC