Georgetown, KY (May 24, 2012) – The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced today that it has selected 47 small colleges and universities in the United States – including Georgetown College for the second consecutive time –  as the recipients of grants totaling over $50 million that will enable the schools to work together to create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experiences to students, and increase the diversity of students who study science.

 Georgetown College, which was awarded $1.3 million by HHMI on the previous grant cycle in 2008, will receive $1.1 million this time.

“I’m so pleased that HHMI is recognizing and supporting the contribution our science program makes to educating Kentucky students,” said Dr. Rosemary Allen, Provost of Georgetown College. “For the second straight grant cycle, Georgetown is the only institution in Kentucky to receive HHMI support.  This is a compelling endorsement of the quality of what we do at Georgetown College.”

David Asai, program director at HHMI, pointed out that 215 of the best small institutions in the country were invited to apply a year ago. “Schools are invited because of their track record for sending students to medical and graduate school,” he said. “So, just to be invited means you’re doing something right.”

According to Asai, “reviewers felt that one of Georgetown College’s strengths was the number of first-generation students with terrific potential it was attracting.” That fits perfectly with one of HHMI’s goals – finding and developing talent in under-served populations.

“Science is only going to be as good as the scientists themselves,” Asai added. “At HHMI it’s important to identify future scientists, develop them and help them get better.”

That’s precisely what Dr. Mark Christensen (Biology), the executive director of Georgetown’s HHMI program, and his team of professors intend with this repeat four-year grant: Expand the pool of highly talented leaders in science research and education who hail from first-generation backgrounds by increasing the number and percentage of those students who pursue advanced degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields.

During the previous four-year grant period, Georgetown has had two very successful sub-programs of the HHMI program – EGSL (Early Grades Science Literacy) Program and GC-PALS, a seminar series and summer research program. In the past three years, 36 students have completed HHMI research projects at such institutions as University of Kentucky, Marshall University, University of Oklahoma, University of Pennsylvania and UCLA as well as on the Georgetown campus; 19 research students this summer will bring the total to 55. And, 24 more students are already committed to research projects in Summer 2013.

Christensen expects three new components to truly breed added success:

(1)  The pre-college “bridge” course, which will give first-generation freshmen valuable skills for approaching math and science

(2)  A science-based Foundations Class for freshmen, and

(3)  The STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math – and note the additional “M” for Medicine) Fellowship Program, which will enlist science majors to help mentor younger students as well as reach out to the rest of campus

“Now there will be something for our Science students each of their four years here,” said Christensen. He added that with this new HHMI grant, “basically, we have an 8-year program now. We are building a ‘scientific community’ here!”

Dr. Allen, the academic dean of the College, agreed: “I am so impressed by the work of our science faculty in developing such a meaningful program. They have led us through several years of extraordinary achievement, including not only these two straight HHMI grants, but also our recent recognition of our Chemistry program by the American Chemical Society and grants from the National Science Foundation as well as from private donors and foundations. The sciences are a signature program for Georgetown College.”

More on where GC Fits Into the HHMI Picture

 One of the significant changes in the 2012 competition was the requirement that each application focus on a single overarching objective that defines the context for the proposed activities. (See the category GC was placed in BELOW, Persistence of All Students*)

In the past, applications were organized around four — often disconnected — components. HHMI’s David Asai noted the previous modular design often led schools to “check the boxes” rather than encouraging them to think strategically about how the activities will contribute to a science education objective. Asai said the focused design of the proposals will hopefully make it easier for grantees to measure and understand their progress. “We want to find out what you are doing that is making undergraduates better prepared to be successful as future scientists, teachers, or members of a scientifically literate public,” he said.

“Themes are very important for the nation, for what we hope to learn,” Asai said. “We (at HHMI) hope that Georgetown College can model ideas for other institutions. In other words, lessons learned at Georgetown will inform other institutions.”

 Persistence of All Students *

Programs to encourage the success in science of students from all backgrounds. Strategies include research experiences, mini-grants for faculty mentoring, pre-freshman “bridge” programs, curriculum redesign, and faculty and staff training.

Barnard College, New York, NY ($1.0M)

California State University, Fullerton – Fullerton, CA ($1.2M)

Carleton College, Northfield, MN ($1.0M)

Carroll College, Helena, MT ($1.0M)

Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA ($1.4M)

Georgetown College, Georgetown, KY ($1.1M)

The Claremont Colleges—Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, Pomona College, and Scripps College—Claremont, CA ($3.6M)

University of Minnesota – Morris, Morris, MN ($1.2M)

University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez, Puerto Rico ($1.3M)

University of Richmond – Richmond, VA ($1.4M)

University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX ($1.2M)

Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA ($1.0M)