Monday, August 28, 2017

College Partner in $1M Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant

Salt Lake Community College will share in a $1 million dollar grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in partnership with the University of Utah to develop fully articulated degree pathways for students seeking science degrees. The award will also fund the establishment of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Data Team to inform decisions at both institutions about how best to support students transferring from SLCC to the U of U.

A team from SLCC that includes people from both Academic Affairs and the Student Affairs division will work with U of U faculty and administrators for what’s being called UPSTEM, or the Utah Pathways to STEM initiative.  A significant part of the UPSTEM project includes increasing advising capacity for students transferring between schools. “This is a significant partnership in addressing the shared goal of increasing the rate and efficiency of STEM students transferring from SLCC to the U of U,” said Craig Caldwell, dean of SLCC’s School of Science, Mathematics, and Engineering.

The five-year grant addresses long-standing transfer challenges between SLCC and the U’s College of Science, supporting SLCC’s goal of improving transfer rates and its capacity for greater inclusion within STEM fields of students from a broader diversity of backgrounds. The U of U was one of 24 institutions HHMI chose (SLCC is the only community college partner among the group) as grant recipients that will commit to diversity and inclusion as part of its Inclusive Excellence Initiative.  The goal is to develop a model of how a research-intensive institution and a community college can effectively partner by creating institutional policies to remove barriers to success and build support structures for transfer students and students from diverse backgrounds.

“We’re thinking differently about how HHMI can help move science education forward,” HHMI President Erin O’Shea said in an article published on HHMI’s website.  HHMI is the largest private, nonprofit supporter of science education in the country, according to its website. SLCC also hopes to use the partnership to build on existing grant-funded initiatives to benefit low income, first generation college students.  SLCC currently hosts both Trio SSS STEM and STEM Scholars programs, funded by the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation respectively.  SLCC will leverage data and participants from these programs in UPSTEM efforts to prioritize and support underrepresented transfer students.