Congratulations to Fort Lewis College, University of California Irvine, and Florida International University for being awarded and recognized in the NSF COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Challenge.

  • Fort Lewis College received $25,000 from the National Science Foundation in the four-year STEM undergraduate category of awards.
  • UC Irvine received $15,000 in the STEM Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar category of awards.
  • Florida International University received honorable mention.

Fort Lewis College, a Native American serving, non-tribal institution, awards more undergraduate degrees to Native American students than any other college in the U.S. Prior to COVID-19, first-to-second year retention rates among native students increased from 55% to 67% between 2015-2019; however, for the 2020 first-year cohort there was a 20% decline to 47%. The short-term impacts of COVID-19 revealed challenges in student academic preparedness. Many of the challenges have been exacerbated among Native American students, all of whom are pursuing STEM degrees, and at a stage where college readiness is critical. The Fort Lewis College Taking Action submission describes three evidence-based and system efforts (first-year launch course, foundational mathematics support, and holistic student support services) to increase student success, retention and ultimately in the long-term, conferral of STEM baccalaureate degrees.

At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), 20% of the student population is Hispanic, Latino, or Pacific Islanders. Surveys demonstrated that COVID exacerbated the already existing challenges for many of these students working as teaching assistants, especially with pivoting to remote learning. In support of these students, the UCI developed three different initiatives. Fellowships were provided for students to conduct contact tracing. A Summer Fellows program was also developed to train graduate students in inclusive pedagogy, with a focus on cultural competency, and innovative technologies. Assessment of the program demonstrated improved outcomes for undergraduate students from underrepresented populations taught by Fellows. In addition, UCI offered funding for summer research to graduate students from underrepresented populations who had a record of participation in DEI activities such as mentoring other students from underrepresented populations. Support for Graduate Inclusive Excellence Fellows continued in 2021 and is expected to continue in the future. All of these initiatives are undergoing iterative improvement through assessment and evaluation.