Loyola Marymount University has been selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to receive a $2.5 million Driving Change grant, which will go toward efforts to bring greater equity for students from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM education.
LMU is one of six institutions to receive the HHMI grant, which came after a yearslong application and review process that also included a rigorous institutional self-study. The university will receive funding over a period of five years.
“Two years ago, in the wake of a nationwide reckoning, LMU communities of color came together in allyship to challenge their university to do better,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Poon. “This grant affirms LMU’s collective commitment to anti-racism at multiple levels, and I thank the HHMI and Seaver College for their dedication to advancing STEM education through shared equity leadership.”
The funds will be used to develop a summer faculty institute to equip faculty in the LMU Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering with knowledge about systemic racism and its impact on the learning environment. It will also provide support for their development as equity-minded practitioners, and implementation of equity-centered data collection, stewardship, and assessment practices to empower leadership, faculty, and campus partners to elevate the success of all students.
The program will be headed by Heather Tarleton, professor of health and human sciences and inaugural associate dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Seaver College, who drew a connection between the grant and LMU’s mission statement, which calls for educating the whole person and promoting justice.
“We are teacher-scholars — it’s not just our traditional research that matters, we also need to be pedagogical scholars, scholars of equity-centered practices,” said Tarleton. “To educate the whole person, we must first understand and acknowledge the identities and lived experiences of our students. To promote justice, we must first understand and counter the injustices that our education system has perpetuated to date.”
Tarleton’s focus for the institute will be developing STEM faculty through the lens of equity, encouraging them to avoid the so-called color-blindness and neutrality that is current in STEM research to move toward a place where students are encouraged to bring all of their identities to the table. The desired outcome is lasting systemic institutional transformation that begins with equity- and student-centered faculty.
“Diversity of experience and diversity of thought are the foundations of creativity, curiosity, and innovation. When we force people to conform to our idea of what a scientist or engineer should look like, sound like, be like, we lose,” said Tarleton. “We lose when we don’t allow students to show all of their identities in the classroom.”