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White House Announces Large-Scale Commitment to Advance Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has announced a slate of actions across government, philanthropy, industry, education, research, and community organizations aimed at eliminating systemic barriers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). The effort, involving 90 institutional partners and totaling more than $1.2 billion in work and investment, will be coordinated by the newly formed STEMM Opportunity Alliance (SOA), an organization led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

"Today's STEMM ecosystem is inequitable by nearly every measure, shutting out and diverting away too many talented individuals, closing off opportunities for discovery and innovation, and limiting our national potential," the White House explained in a news announcement. "America is at an inflection point: As historic science and technology legislative achievements drive progress on critical national priorities, including clean energy, quantum, semiconductors, and space, the U.S. must seize the opportunity to ensure that all communities benefit from these transformative investments. To meet President Biden's Day 1 call to advance equity for people who have been historically underserved and leverage this once-in-a-generation opportunity to power a more just, inclusive, and competitive science and technology ecosystem, now is the time for the U.S. to take bold concerted action across STEMM sectors."

SOA partners have pledged a long list of actions to expand STEMM opportunity in a variety of ways. Project goals include providing holistic and lifelong support for learners, teachers, workers, and communities to participate in and contribute to science and technology; closing the funding gap and supporting students, researchers, and communities who have been historically excluded from access to key resources; rooting out systemic bias, inaccessibility, discrimination, and harassment in the classroom, laboratory, and workplace; promoting a culture and systems of accountability across the science and technology ecosystem; and more. For example, some of the commitments involving higher education institutions are (taken verbatim from the White House announcement):

  • The Amgen Foundation has committed $43 million to support LabXchange at Harvard University, a global science classroom that makes high-quality science education accessible to all curious minds, particularly those from underrepresented groups, and gives learners and educators tools to chart meaningful paths in STEMM at no cost. Through free educational content, digital authoring tools, and professional development opportunities, LabXchange empowers teachers to deliver meaningful learning outcomes in equitable teaching environments. Since launching in 2020, over 27 million learners, educators, and STEMM professionals worldwide have engaged with the content library, learning features, and webinars. LabXchange aims to serve 50 million users through its platform by 2025.
  • Vanderbilt University recently launched faculty-led STEMM training and development initiatives across its undergraduate and graduate STEMM programs, which are supported by over $30 million in federal and university investments. These programs are designed to introduce, fund, support and mentor undergraduates into STEMM-related research opportunities and expand their options for graduate and career research. Vanderbilt continues to partner with Fisk University through the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master's-to-PhD Bridge Program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students engaged in PhD-level STEMM research.
  • National University, partnering with The Institute for Learning-Enabled Optimization at Scale (TILOS), will work to develop career-relevant technology courses for adult STEMM learners from historically excluded communities. By 2024, TILOS aims to support 2,000 students in earning badges, credentials, or degrees that lead to gainful employment in STEMM fields. This includes developing new courses that will focus on computing, AI optimization, robotics, networking and chip design, while providing a community outreach element to raise awareness and encourage interest in AI-related careers.
  • Arizona State University is leading the state of Arizona's New Economy Initiative to build expertise in vitally important new economy fields. This effort includes five Science and Technology Centers to expand impact in key regional technology areas and conduct world-class research through partnerships with industrial organizations and other public and private entities. ASU has diversified the population of students enrolled in STEMM degrees while simultaneously improving student achievement and decreasing equity gaps, increasing enrollment of full-time, first-time freshmen in undergraduate natural science and engineering degrees 3.6-fold from 1,229 to 4,459 students between 2004 to 2020.
  • Morgan State University, a historically Black research institution, has encouraged thousands of black students to pursue careers in STEMM fields and will continue its work to strengthen its institution to provide greater STEMM opportunity for its students. In 2022, the university launched three new research centers, and intends that the research conducted at the new centers will propel Morgan to the next echelon in Carnegie Classification research rankings. The university will also engage the community residents and officials in the application of understanding and policy analysis derived from faculty and student research.
  • Olin College of Engineering is developing The Mirror, a center for Pathways to STEM efforts that involve collaboration among local high school students, college students, faculty, and a variety of partners. The center will be located in an urban setting with proximity to both underserved communities and high-tech companies. The College is also engaged in a year-long DEI Champions to engage 10 percent of faculty and staff in a cycle of learning, action, and accountability to bring the tenets and practices of racial equity work to Olin.
  • Wellesley College will leverage a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to provide 100 faculty and staff with change agent training, which will help them identify the barriers that keep first-generation and underrepresented students out of STEMM fields, move away from a "gate-keeping" mentality, and encourage them to create multiple pathways into STEMM majors. Wellesley will also enlist a cohort of HHMI Student Interns, who will work with 10 STEMM departments and programs on curriculum development, major requirements, and faculty hiring.
  • Johns Hopkins University is launching the new Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative (VTSI), a $150 million effort supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies devoted to addressing historical underrepresentation in STEMM. The initiative seeks to strengthen pathways for students from historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions to achieve PhDs in STEMM fields by providing permanent funding directed at nurturing, mentoring, and connecting talent to graduate education. The VTSI will expand research-intensive summer undergraduate and post-baccalaureate program experiences in STEMM for students from HBCU and MSI institutions and add a cohort of approximately 100 PhD students in JHU's more than 30 STEMM programs.
  • Spelman College's Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM recently launched the STEM Equity Research Hub, the initial component of a national repository for the dissemination of research, data, and curriculum focused on the recruitment, retention, experiences, and advancement of Black, Latina and Indigenous women in STEMM. The Hub will support Spelman faculty in completing projects and publications that highlight Spelman's effective practices, fund Spelman students to develop research projects and conduct research at the intersection of social justice and STEMM, and offer opportunities to faculty and students to enhance their knowledge about conducting research on STEMM equity.

"Our Nation depends on a diverse, skilled STEM workforce that is ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century, from growing U.S. leadership in space exploration to tackling the climate crisis," said Vice President Kamala Harris, in a statement. "That is why our Administration is committed to empowering and training the next generation of innovators and removing the barriers to these talented individuals achieving their full potential. By bringing together government, civil society, and the private sector, we can prepare our nation's STEM workforce and create educational and economic opportunity for generations to come."

For more information, check out the White House fact sheet.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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