VCU HHMI Inclusive Excellence Program

The VCU HHMI Excellence Program will position VCU, JTCC, and Reynolds to increase the use of inclusive methods of teaching in STEM classes, build the administrative infrastructure for transfer students and enhance institutional climate to promote student success. 


The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected 33 colleges and universities, including Virginia Commonwealth University, for its 2018 Inclusive Excellence initiative, which aims to help schools find ways to engage more students in science — especially those from underrepresented groups, such as minorities, first-generation students, and working adults with families.

The 33 selected schools join the 24 selected in 2017, making a total of 57 schools that will each receive $1 million in grant support over five years. The schools will work with the institute and its partner, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, to implement culture change.

For VCU, changing the culture means partnering with John Tyler and J. Sargeant Reynolds community colleges to transform the way that faculty engage with students in science, technology, engineering and math courses and to foster a STEM-nurturing environment that can support and respond to the needs of a diverse student body.

The VCU HHMI Inclusive Excellence Program will position VCU and our community college partners, John Tyler Community College and J. Sargent Reynolds, to increase the use of inclusive pedagogy in STEM classes, build the administrative infrastructure for transfer students and enhance institutional climate to promote student success.

– Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves, Ph.D. Program Director, VCU HHMI Inclusive Excellence Program

Measuring Progress

The overall program focus is to build inclusive faculty and student communities at VCU and remove roadblocks for non-traditional students. Throughout the grant period, we will monitor progress toward meeting goals established and effectively engaging all VCU students so that they will be successful in the sciences.

Community-building milestones will be linked to data-based assessments and surveys monitoring participation, satisfaction, and perceived value of program elements. Assessment will target the learning climate in STEM programs and the sense of community experienced by students and faculty at VCU and our community college partners. Milestones with respect to transfer roadblocks will focus on academic achievement and retention rates and establishing procedural changes that equalize the paths for all students. 

Learning from the Work

We propose a model wherein development of stronger teaching and learning communities will bridge gaps among prior successful student success initiatives, reward faculty for inclusive teaching, and ultimately create an institutional environment that is both more supportive of our non-traditional students and scalable. Lessons from this experiment will guide future investments at VCU and our community college partners and could be applied to similar institutions.