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NC State Lands $1 Million Grant to Support Transfer and First-Year Students in the Life Sciences

Students collaborate during a Life Sciences First Year Program class.
NC State students collaborate during a class as part of the university's Life Sciences First Year Program.

Biological sciences faculty at NC State have received a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to improve advising, mentoring, courses and research experiences for transfer and first-year students in the life sciences. The grant will engage nine life sciences degree programs in the College of Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The grant was part of HHMI’s Inclusive Excellence initiative, which aims to engage all students in the life sciences regardless of background. NC State was one of 33 schools selected to receive one of the five-year grants.

“Inclusive excellence happens when diverse groups work together,” said Vicki Martin, professor of biological sciences at NC State and lead researcher on the grant. “Through faculty development, proactive advising, peer mentoring, outreach to community college students and new courses built into the required curriculum, we will build and institutionalize a culture of inclusive excellence.”

Enhancing student success and increasing the number of transfer students at the university are part of NC State’s strategic plan. More than 1,300 students transferred to NC State last year, and transfer students make up about 20 percent of each graduating class.

Funding from the grant will enhance and expand training in peer mentor programs to support transfer and first-year students in the life sciences. The initiative includes outreach efforts to North Carolina community colleges to communicate with potential life science transfer students, as well as the creation of program-specific degree paths that integrate across community college and NC State curricula.

The grant will also develop workshops to train faculty members on inclusive excellence teaching practices and on developing course-based undergraduate research experiences known as CUREs. The program expects to impact at least 80 faculty members, 200 course offerings and 10,000 students over the next five years.

In addition to Martin, the primary researchers on the grant are Jason Flores, teaching associate professor of biological sciences; Jane Lubischer, assistant head of the Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Life Sciences First Year Program; and Lisa Parks, teaching associate professor of biological sciences.