NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Grant Proposals

The NSM faculty have spearheaded a range of grant proposals aimed at increasing the diversity and success of the students and faculty. Two recent examples are provided below.

Please feel free to reach out to the NSM DEI committee (list at the end) for advice and/or partnering in your own DEI-related grant proposals. You are encouraged to email the entire committee or choose a particular member. We want to provide you with advice, data and template text, and grant partners to increase your chances for success.

NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) Program

The National Institutes of Health have created a new Funding Opportunity that is focused on recruitment and retention of a more diverse faculty in biomedical sciences that is self-reinforcing and transforms the research and culture at the institution. Erika Henderson (Associate Provost for Faculty Recruitment, Retention, Equity, and Diversity), Christiane Spitzmueller (Professor of Psychology), and Jim Briggs (Professor of Biochemistry and Associate Dean) teamed up to prepare a proposal for this solicitation. The mechanism is a U54 (cooperative agreement) where the grantee institutions and NIH work together to accomplish the grant and program aims.

In the UH application, we proposed to hire seven faculty of color at the tenure-track Assistant Professor level across seven colleges under the broad area of Health Disparities research. The faculty would be hired in a cohort fashion in Year 2 of the grant and be provided with a ‘constellation’ of mentorship, grants training, and professional development/support. The grant budget generously provides faculty salary for three years as well as a significant percentage of the startup package. Other elements of the proposed activities include a recruiting workshop in Year 1 of the grant to identify and recruit seven biomedical sciences faculty at the Assistant Professor level, enhancement of the promotion and tenure training to enhance equity, and professional development activities that will be open to most/all faculty.

With this effort, we hope to both increase the number of underrepresented faculty in biomedical sciences at UH and also improve our processes to increase their success. Another significant element of the grant is measurement to gauge the success of the various grant activities/programs. If the grant is awarded, NSM should have one or maybe two of the grant program hires.

The total budget request was for $7.8M in direct cost plus $3.9M in indirect. Upon awarding of this grant, we will look forward to your engagement and support of this important work to accelerate the diversification of our faculty so that our diverse students see more faculty who look like them, which in turn has been shown to be a factor that motivates their career path choices and success.

NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Proposal for Promoting NSM Student Success

With the recent attention to social and racial injustices against Black and Asian Americans, it has many of us thinking about how we can be part of the change that needs to occur for promoting an inclusive environment within society as well as within STEM. As faculty and staff, we must consider both how we can help as individuals and how we can lead efforts for change within the institution.

In an effort to provide an avenue for faculty to gain resources for making their courses more inclusive, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from NSM and the College of Education (COE) have submitted a proposal to the NSF IUSE program. The objective of the proposal is to implement culturally relevant materials in NSM gateway courses to improve student motivation/desire for obtaining a STEM degree and to promote civic engagement for the students making them more prone to address STEM-related issues relevant to them, their communities, and society.

This project aims to promote a transformational change for both teaching and learning STEM content by the following:

  • Developing and implementing culturally responsive curriculum into gateway courses in the NSM Departments, including Biology/Biochemistry, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Math, Physics, and teachHOUSTON, using specific practices/lessons that are connected to the experiences of the students in STEM courses.
  • Providing professional development workshops to faculty by creating communities of practice (CoP) to effectively develop and deliver culturally relevant content in their courses.
  • Developing an Infusing Culture in STEM tool kit which will include guidelines for faculty on inclusion of cultural content in their courses and materials for conducting workshops to train faculty in such practices.

Evaluation of this project will allow the research team to gain knowledge for understanding and examining shifts/changes in student success in NSM, particularly for underrepresented minorities, due to utilization of culturally responsive materials and shifts in attitudes of faculty who participate in professional development and implement culturally responsive materials in their classrooms.

A key aspect of this program is the engagement of members of the NSM DEI committee, who are part of the research team, as they have already shown interest in addressing such issues. This includes Donna Stokes (Physics and Associate Dean), Leah McAlister-Shields (Mathematics and teachHOUSTON), Ognjen Miljanić, (Chemistry), Amy Sater (Chair, Biology & Biochemistry) and Jonny Wu (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences). Other members of the team include Donna Pattison (Biology & Biochemistry and Assistant Dean), Paige Evans (Mathematics and Associate Director, teachHOUSTON), Giulia Toti (Computer Science) and Consuelo Arbona (Counseling Psychology and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, COE).

If funded, this project has the potential to impact thousands of students enrolled in gateway courses and to serve as a model for others, colleges within UH and other institutions, especially HSIs, on how to infuse cultural practices to transform the STEM course experience for faculty and students.

NSM Faculty Committee for DEI

  • Jim Briggs and Donna Stokes, Associate Deans (Committee Co-Chairs)
  • Amy Sater (Chair), Biology & Biochemistry
  • Ognjen Miljanic, Chemistry
  • Thamar Solorio, Computer Science
  • Johnny Wu, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
  • Leah McAlister-Shields (NTT), Mathematics
  • Lisa Koerner, Physics