RNA Institute and CURCE student Che'-Doni Platt writes with markers on a transparent board in front of her. RNA Institute and CURCE student Che'-Doni Platt writes with markers on a transparent board in front of her.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Driving Change Grant

A $2.5M Investment in STEM Inclusivity

The University at Albany is pioneering new, more inclusive approaches to teaching STEM, supported by a $2.5 million Driving Change grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

HHMI’s Driving Change initiative seeks to effect lasting culture changes at research universities to ensure undergraduate students from all backgrounds, particularly those who belong to historically excluded groups, will excel in STEM and graduate from college well-prepared to pursue advanced degrees and assume leadership roles in STEM fields.

EXCELlence in STEM

A student in googles looks at a slide while conducting research in a UAlbany lab.

Through this five-year HHMI grant, UAlbany has established EXCELlence in STEM, a program that enhances student support to increase retention, persistence and graduation rates. It leverages the University's existing STEM support network—a network shown to benefit STEM majors who participate, with a greater proportion of positive impacts on STEM majors from historically underrepresented backgrounds.


A Three-Pronged Approach

EXCELlence in STEM utilizes a three-pronged approach that incorporates student-centered interventions, faculty redesign of STEM instruction, and institutional support.


Student-Centered Elements enable all students to succeed, while reaffirming a university commitment to and value of that success.

  • Summer Bridge Program that includes Diagnostic Assessment and Achievement of College Skills (DAACS), basic math and science modules, academic coaching and summer research opportunities
  • Supplemental Instruction, built on the CARSS model, for all incoming STEM majors
  • Personalized advising and academic counseling for STEM students
  • Student Success Teams that include an advisor, academic coach, resident director, supplemental instructor, financial aid counselor and an optional pre-health advisor
  • Microgrants to provide additional financial support for students across the University, including those pursuing STEM degrees
  • Engagement opportunities to financially support students by providing them with employment as peer tutors, work-study staff and mentors

Faculty-Centered Elements advance STEM pedagogy and support faculty with redesigning core curriculum, allowing them to better assume responsibility for student success.

  • Core STEM courses redesign with a focus on transformational learning models, inclusive teaching and targeted learning pathways
    • Invitation to join APLU Student Experience Project Institute (SEP) 
    • Implementation of evidence-based practices
  • Faculty STEM learning community focused on proactively and intentionally supporting students as they enter the STEM education pipeline
    • Development of STEM inclusion modules
    • Implementation a STEM faculty Summer Institute

Institution-Centered Elements will significantly increase the inclusivity of the university’s STEM learning environment and provide project longevity.

  • Resources for program sustainability
    • A dedicated space within the University for the EXCEL in STEM program within the new “Learning Commons” of the OAISS
    • Permanent personnel to support the program and expansion
    • An established Associate Vice Provost of the Learning Commons
  • Pedagogical enhancements of STEM areas through recruitment and training of diverse STEM graduate students
  • Skills badges and microcredentials both for STEM students and Researchers
  • Creation of scholarly research based on assessment of program outcomes and variable impacts