Kelly Wentz-Hunter
Kelly Wentz-Hunter, chair of Bio and Physical Health Science at Roosevelt University
Our grant will enhance cultural sensitivity and teaching pedagogy among faculty, with improvements in teaching techniques, integration of new technologies; culturally informed curricula; and effective, tiered mentoring strategies. Kelly Wentz-Hunter, chair of Bio and Physical Health Science, Roosevelt University

Roosevelt University has been selected as one of 33 colleges and universities to participate in Howard Hughes Medical Institute's (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Initiative, joining 24 schools selected in 2017, which aims to catalyze schools’ efforts to engage all students in science — regardless of background. Those students could include underrepresented ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, or working adults with families.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has spent the last 30 years as a force to be reckoned with in both biomedical research and science education. Its Inclusive Excellence Initiative seeks to select worthy academic institutions to receive a $1 million grant over the next five years to join science education with social change. Through a rigorous and competitive application process, Roosevelt University was selected to receive this grant money, along with a multitude of equally deserving peers.

HHMI and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) will work closely with Roosevelt University, along with the other grantees selected, to ensure that the process of creating a more inclusive space in the sciences is being properly refined.

Roosevelt strives to extend the benefits of this initiative beyond science education goals, as changes in institutional culture will enhance the University’s ongoing commitment to social justice, diversity and inclusion across all disciplines.

“Our grant will enhance cultural sensitivity and teaching pedagogy among faculty, with improvements in teaching techniques; integration of new technologies; culturally informed curricula; and effective, tiered mentoring strategies,” said Kelly Wentz-Hunter, chair of Bio and Physical Health Science at Roosevelt. “These initiatives will sustain implementation of inclusion strategies across multiple aspects of University operations, including outreach services, cross-cultural experiential learning opportunities, and undergraduate mentoring in STEM fields.” 

Wentz-Hunter believes that this will ultimately impact much more than just the community at Roosevelt. “We feel that this grant will allow Roosevelt University to be a leader in inclusive excellence in the Chicago area, enabling first-generation and underrepresented minority undergraduates to sense that they belong to and can participate successfully in the scientific community at the University and in the broader society.”

Engaging these students and bringing their diverse perspectives into the science community is critical for achieving scientific excellence and finding creative solutions to difficult problems, she said. Yet this potential is far from being realized because certain groups of students are far more likely than others to persist in science. Students’ race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational paths, and parents’ level of education are all tied to undergraduate success rates.  

The 57 grantees selected by HHMI in the two rounds will act on opportunities they have identified on their campuses through a variety of approaches, including revising curricula, restructuring educational pathways, changing faculty reward structures, providing faculty training in cultural and racial bias awareness, and collaborating with other organizations who have had success in building inclusive institutions. Each school has committed to working closely with HHMI and the AAC&U Inclusive Excellence Commission for five years to evaluate its progress and refine its approach.  

“Roosevelt University is honored to be selected by HHMI to receive an Inclusive Excellence grant,” said Mike Maly, associate provost for research and faculty success. “This award will not only advance the University’s long-standing commitment to addressing inequality in access to education, but also stimulate Roosevelt’s efforts to build sustainable inclusive excellence into faculty pedagogy and culture, as well as our mentoring, advising and career development efforts.

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