Ohio State awarded Sloan Foundation grant

Ohio State Selected to Advance Systemic Change in Doctoral STEM Education

One of ten U.S. universities awarded Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant

The Ohio State University is one of ten U.S. universities awarded grants totaling $2.5 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to advance equity in doctoral STEM programs.

Selected through a competitive nationwide search, each award recipient received a two-year, $250,000 seed grant to develop plans and begin implementation of evidence-based policies and practices to improve the recruitment, retention and graduation of a diverse community of students in physical science and engineering doctoral programs. Upon conclusion of the seed grant, pilot programs will be eligible to apply for four-year, $1.4 million implementation grants from Sloan, which include scholarship funds for students in participating departments.

The goal of the pilot is to lay a foundation for systemic reform of structures that disproportionately burden underrepresented students in graduate education. By removing entrenched barriers to student success, grantees aspire to improve student outcomes, creating educational environments that are more effective and equitable for all.

In addition to the grant award, Sloan is supporting each institution’s participation in the Equity in Graduate Education Consortium, a networked improvement community that equips participants with research, tools and change management strategies to achieve systemic change.

“We know that we can make graduate education in STEM better for everyone,” says Adam Falk, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation president. “But systemic change is hard. What stands out about these institutions is their level of commitment and readiness. These are campuses that have a vision for how to be better and are eager to take the next step.”

With Sloan Foundation support, Ohio State will establish a Sloan Center for Systemic Change (SCSC). Building on the university’s long-term efforts and investments to diversify STEM education, Ohio State will seek to significantly enhance pipelines for underrepresented graduate students, with the aspiration to attract more students to STEM graduate programs while enhancing enrollment and graduation rates.

“As a leading public land-grant research university, Ohio State recognizes that a diverse STEM workforce is the cornerstone of future economic growth, technological innovation and national security,” said project principal investigator Mary Stromberger, vice provost and dean for graduate education and ENGIE-Axium Endowed Chair. “With Columbus a top location for start-ups, a Biden Workforce Hub and an emerging operation base for tech giants such as Intel and Google, the need for a diverse STEM workforce is particularly important to sustain and accelerate a thriving workforce in central Ohio.”

The SCSC at Ohio State will engage eight STEM departments across the College of Arts and Sciences (chemistry and biochemistry, earth sciences, mathematics, physics) and the College of Engineering (biomedical engineering, materials science, computer science, welding). Colleges and departments will collaborate on assembling quantitative and qualitative data on Ohio State’s graduate learning and research environments, study existing and test innovative approaches to recruiting and retaining diverse students, and share best practices and lessons learned with other universities in the Sloan SCSC system.

Project co-directors and co-principal investigators are Wendy Smooth, senior vice provost for inclusive excellence; Ange-Marie Hancock, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and ENGIE-Axium Endowed Professor of Political Science; Ayanna Howard, dean of the College of Engineering and Monte Ahuja Endowed Dean’s Chair; La’Tonia Stiner-Jones, associate dean of graduate programs in the College of Engineering; Susan Olesik, dean of natural and mathematical sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and Distinguished University Professor; and Stephen Quaye, associate dean for excellence in graduate and postdoctoral training in the Graduate School. The SCSC at Ohio State will be administrated jointly by the Graduate School and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

The Sloan Foundation grant will accelerate Ohio State’s cross-cutting work to advance equitable student outcomes in STEM fields. Last year, Ohio State was one of six universities selected to participate in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Driving Change initiative to transform undergraduate STEM programs. Ohio State was also the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant in collaboration with Michigan State University and Wayne State University to advance equitable work cultures that attract, retain and advance women in STEM disciplines.

“Ohio State remains committed to accelerating student success and strengthening a university culture of inclusion that enables all students to thrive,” said Stromberger. “This pilot will create an effective foundation for the two colleges to assess and co-create programs that will support increased access and student success.”