Duke receives grant for STEM program

Aug. 28, 2014 @ 06:24 PM

Duke University has received a five-year, $1.5 million grant to improve learning for science, technology, engineering and math students, the Duke Office of News & Communications announced Thursday.
The grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization, is targeted toward improving learning in STEM subjects for underrepresented minorities in introductory science courses.
With the money, Duke plans to launch the Collaborating on Mentoring, Persistence, Assessment and Student Success, or COMPASS, project, which involves implementing proven teaching practices in the classroom.
“So much of our discussion about the STEM fields has been focused on concerns about student preparation,” said Laurie Patton, dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, in a statement. “The design of this HHMI grant changes that emphasis and puts the responsibility on the institution to help respond to the student better.”
Specifically, the COMPASS Project will:
-- Create a STEM Teaching and Learning Collaboratory that brings together faculty, teaching assistants and learning specialists to determine best practices for teaching and learning in introductory courses.
-- Expand the Science Advancement through Group Engagement Program, a small-group study program at Duke that doubled retention rates during its pilot years. Since 2009, the number of Arts & Sciences students graduating in a STEM discipline has increased 7.3 percent.
-- Hire a director of academic engagement to advise and track the progress of STEM students.
Duke was among 170 universities that submitted applications for HHMI’s 2014 competition for the grant. Of the 170 applicants, 37 received grants, which total $60 million to be distributed over five years.
Previous HHMI grants to Duke have funded multiple science education programs. They include the Howard Hughes Research Fellows Program, an 8-week summer research program that pairs first-year students with faculty mentors, and the Vertically Integrated Partners Program, a 10-week summer program that introduces upper-level students to biological and biomedical sciences research.
“HHMI’s continued support has enabled Duke to embed research into the undergraduate experience,” said Lee Willard, associate vice provost for undergraduate education and senior associate dean for academic planning. “More than 50 percent of all Duke undergraduates will have a research experience before they graduate. This grant will allow us to build on that and to expand our efforts in STEM fields, particularly those for underrepresented minorities.”
The gift will advance the seven-year Duke Forward fundraising campaign, which has passed the $2 billion mark toward its $3.25 billion goal.