Key takeaways

  • A $2.5 million, five-year grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute will enable UCLA to expand programs promoting inclusion and success for STEM students.
  • UCLA was one of six universities recognized by HHMI for developing culture change efforts including equity action plans and living-learning communities.
  • The funding will provide summer support for student research and allow faculty to reimagine courses that provide authentic research experiences.

UCLA has received $2.5 million to expand programs that promote inclusion and success for students in STEM. The five-year grant, awarded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Driving Change program, will build on existing programs aimed at ensuring the persistence and success of students in the life sciences, increasing undergraduate access to research activities and supporting faculty efforts to foster evidence-based inclusive educational practices. 

UCLA was one of six universities recognized by the HHMI Driving Change program for developing culture change efforts that include new department-based equity action plans, living-learning communities, holistic advising programs and civic engagement programs, among many other undertakings. 

“After several years of study, the UCLA College’s Division of Life Sciences, home to the largest number of undergraduate majors on campus, identified several student-centered strategies that the data shows can help students historically excluded from STEM to not only persist in STEM, but to thrive,” said Tracy Johnson, dean of life sciences. “We are already doing many of these things well, and now we will be able to do them even better and serve more students.” 

The funding will provide summer support for student research and allow faculty to reimagine courses that provide authentic research experiences. Both have been shown to enhance the success of all students, particularly those from underrepresented and underserved communities. The initiative will also expand activities that support a sense of community and belonging among students, and support faculty development to enhance research mentoring and inclusive teaching practices. 

Launched in 2019, the HHMI Driving Change program aims to effect lasting culture change by partnering with research university campuses that are working to identify barriers to inclusion and create inclusive learning environments. The program is designed to help institutions support undergraduate students, including people who have historically been excluded from science because of their background, so that they may excel in STEM and assume leadership roles in the field. 

“Howard Hughes Medical Institute is the premier funding agency driving innovation in biomedical research and education,” Johnson said. We are honored that, through this support, they’ve entrusted us with this bold mission of supporting the next generation of talented scientists.”