Campus Lands $1M Howard Hughes Grant to Make STEM More Inclusive

July 3, 2018

UC Merced’s efforts to make science education more inclusive were recently given a huge boost after the campus was awarded its first Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant, an impressive mark of distinction that reflects the strong upward trajectory of the campus’s research and teaching efforts.

One of 33 schools selected this year to join the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative, UC Merced will receive $1 million over the next five years to test a new undergraduate biological sciences curriculum — one that’s more inclusive of underrepresented and non-traditional students.

“This grant will help us implement faculty development programs, revise the laboratory curriculum and build student-faculty learning communities that promote inclusivity across the university,” said Jennifer Manilay, professor of biological sciences and program director on the new grant.

The UC Merced student body is 71 percent first-generation college students, 57 percent underrepresented minorities and 51 percent women. Many of these students begin their college careers studying biology — among the most popular majors on campus — but end up switching majors or leaving school before graduating.

Nineteen percent of intended biology majors transferred or withdrew from UC Merced and 22 percent switched majors by their seventh semester. Manilay says the new approach will improve retention rates and educational outcomes.

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