Johannes Schul co-PI on HHMI grant to boost diversity in the natural sciences

Dr. Johannes Schul, Professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, is one of five MU faculty who are co-principal investigators of a new $1 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant awarded to MU.

The MU proposal is one of 33 announced today by HHMI as part of its Inclusive Excellence initiative, which aims to catalyze schools’ efforts to engage all students in science ─ regardless of background.

“Inclusive excellence means that excellence in science happens only in inclusive and diverse environments. To achieve excellence, we have to work every day to build an environment in which people from all backgrounds and experiences can THRIVE,” said Schul. “This new grant will facilitate this process at MU.”

THRIVE, or “Transforming Natural Sciences at Mizzou: Retain, Belong, Lead, and THRIVE”, is the title of the MU-funded project. Schul explained that the new project will support activities designed to identify the reasons some groups of students are excluded from science and to find new ways to include them. Those students could include underrepresented ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, transfer students, or working adults with families.

“The idea is that by helping these students thrive in science, we will ultimately change the outcomes of all our students,” he said.

Among the activities the grant will support are learning communities, reflective data, video interventions, and a resource library for inclusive teaching and mentoring, among other resources. It also will enhance the retention of undergraduate students by developing peer mentoring networks, leadership development and extracurricular programming designed to stress the importance of inclusion, diversity and equity.

Schul said the project aims to change the culture of the institution over the 5 years of the grant.

“We will be building a culture of inclusion at three levels — among students, faculty, and the institution – in such a way that it becomes a self-supporting process,” said Schul.

Marcelle Siegel, associate professor of science education in the MU College of Education and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is the principal investigator of the new grant.

In addition to Siegel and Schul, the project leadership team also includes Terrell Morton, Preparing Future Faculty postdoctoral fellow for Faculty Diversity in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum in the College of Education; Charles Nilon, professor in the School of Natural Resources in CAFNR; and Jim Spain, MU Interim Provost and professor of animal sciences in CAFNR.

Last year, Schul was awarded a mini-grant from the Association of American Universities (AAU) to improve undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. The AAU grant helped to establish faculty learning communities designed to provide a support network for faculty across campus who wish to adopt and assess new educational strategies in their classrooms, including those that promote inclusion. Schul said the new THRIVE initiative will benefit from and further enhance these learning communities.

“This new HHMI grant is an opportunity to further build on the infrastructure and culture being developed on campus to encourage inclusive excellence,” he said.