Brandeis receives grant to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM classes

Brandeis University has received a $20,000 grant from the Association of American Universities (AAU) to complement and enhance current efforts at the university to foster student success in STEM.

Through the grant, Brandeis will implement a program of student-faculty pedagogical partnerships. Faculty and students will work together, as partners, to improve instruction and inclusivity in a set of selected courses.

“This grant will enable Brandeis to better help faculty to support students enrolled in STEM education,” said Irving R. Epstein, the Henry F. Fischbach Professor of Chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. “We know that nationally, less than half of the students who enter university planning to major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics actually complete a STEM major. We at Brandeis have been dedicated to improving our students’ ability to succeed in those fields.”

Prior to the start of the fall 2019 semester, students and faculty paired in the AAU grant-supported program will participate in workshops designed by Alison Cook-Sather, Woodworth Professor of Education at Bryn Mawr College. During the semester, the student partners will attend class and take notes on what is working well and what could be improved.

Each student-faculty partnership will meet weekly to share observations about how the course is going and how it might be strengthened. These meetings are expected not only to provide criticism of aspects of the course that are less than ideal, but equally important, to affirm and reinforce features of the course that contribute positively to student learning and involvement. The focus will be not only on issues of curriculum and pedagogy but also on how to make the classroom more welcoming and responsive to students with diverse backgrounds and levels of preparation.

Project leaders are Epstein; Melissa S. Kosinski-Collins, Professor of Biology; and Kim Godsoe, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs.

Brandeis has been involved in efforts to strengthen STEM education for over a decade. STEM Posse, a cohort-based model for enhancing the success of students through innovative selection, pre-college preparation and mentoring, began at Brandeis in 2006 and has now been adopted by 10 other schools across the country. The AAU grant follows on the heels of a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Inclusive Excellence Initiative, received in June 2018, aimed at supporting more students in the sciences.

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