Duke Receives HHMI Grant to Improve Student Success in Stem Fields

Grant designed to improve learning for Duke students in introductory science classes

Duke University has been awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant to improve learning for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students, particularly underrepresented minorities, in introductory science courses.Duke will use the grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to launch the COMPASS Project, which stands for Collaborating on Mentoring, Persistence, Assessment and Student Success. The project will focus on helping Duke STEM students by 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. “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 (SAGE) 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.“This grant will enable Duke to reimagine science education by creating new models for teaching and learning that are grounded in better sources of quantitative and qualitative data,” Patton said. “STEM students from all fields and backgrounds can then be truly motivated by curiosity; they will learn better because we are teaching them better. We are extremely grateful for HHMI's ongoing support of Duke.”Duke was among 170 universities that submitted applications for HHMI’s 2014 competition, Sustaining Excellence. 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. Ninety percent of students who participated in the Research Fellows Program completed a STEM major, and almost 70 percent of those students matriculated into advanced STEM degree programs, including medicine.“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 comprehensive Duke Forward fundraising campaign, which has passed the $2 billion mark toward its $3.25 billion goal. The campaign supports priorities across Duke's 10 schools, Duke Medicine and a range of university programs and initiatives. A nonprofit medical research organization based in Chevy Chase, Md., HHMI has awarded more than $870 million in grants to 274 public and private colleges and universities to support science education in the United States. HHMI support has enabled more than 80,000 students nationwide to work in research labs and developed programs that have helped 95,000 K-12 teachers learn how to teach science more effectively.