Empowering Diverse, Equitable, Inclusive, Just and Accessible Systems for Teaching and Learning

Submitted by Leslie Mangold on December 08, 2022 - 1:33 pm
December 08, 2022
By Leslie Mangold

St. Mary’s College of Maryland has been announced as a recipient of a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in the Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) program. The grant will support SMCM in reflecting upon and ultimately restructuring the way it facilitates, evaluates and rewards teaching and learning practices that center on diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and access (DEIJA). The initiative is being led by Program Director Kelly Y. Neiles, alongside a team that includes individual practitioners from across the institution—faculty, administration, student services and institutional research—all of whom bring perspectives and experiences essential for equity-minded organizational change. The following individuals assisted in securing this grant, many of whom will continue forward with the project:

  • Katy Arnett, Professor and Chair of Educational Studies, Director of Teacher Education, Director of Institutional Assessment
  • José R. Ballesteros, Professor of Spanish, Director of Equity Programing
  • Samantha Elliott, Director of the Center for Inclusive Teaching & Learning and Associate Professor of Biology
  • Gili Freedman, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Argelia Gonzalez Hurtado, Assistant Professor of Spanish
  • Sarah Malena, Assistant Professor of History
  • Scott Mirabile, Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Shanen Sherrer, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
  • Christine Wooley, Associate Dean of Curriculum and Associate Professor of English

The six-year grant totals $505,000, the majority of which will go towards empowering academic programs in coming together to build college-level structures which better represent the values of the SMCM community. The first year of the award will involve an intensive reflection process with three ultimate goals: 1) to develop and articulate a shared understanding of DEIJA in teaching and learning within SMCM’s specific institutional context; 2) to critically examine SMCS’s beliefs, values and policies about DEIJA in teaching and learning; 3) to identify recommendations for a future state of SMCM regarding DEIJA in teaching and learning including how these principles should be integrated into reward systems such as faculty promotion and tenure. To meet these lofty goals during year one, a DEIJA systems fellow will be hired who will assist in these endeavors and work to ensure stakeholder engagement.

The HHMI IE3 competition process was unique in many ways. The HHMI announcement notes that participation and interest in IE3 was strong when the call for applications went out in late spring 2019, with 354 schools submitting pre-proposals in early 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, HHMI decided to pause IE3. “The deep disruptions on many campuses meant that faculty and administrators simply could not prepare full proposals for IE3,” said David Asai, HHMI senior director for science education. Recognizing this pause as an opportunity, HHMI decided to pivot from a largely traditional competition process, to instead invite 108 schools to form a collaborative learning community; 104 agreed, SMCM being one of them. The 104 schools were divided into seven Learning Community Clusters, or LCCs, with each LCC comprising approximately 15 schools. The LCCs are organized around the IE3 challenge chosen by the schools; thus, SMCM will be collaborating with 15 other institutions regarding the evaluation of DEIJA-centered teaching and learning. Professor Neiles stated, “The unique structure of this project means that SMCM will not only be provided monetary support, but also the deep well of knowledge that results from engaging in a learning community with 15 other institutions going through a similar process. We will be meeting regularly with LCC6 to learn from other institutions’ progress, share resources and develop mutually beneficial collaborations. The financial support is important, but I expect the benefits of engaging with the other members of LCC6 will be immeasurable.”


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