UMES received word of its selection as the first HBCU awarded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Driving Change Initiative award.  A five-year grant that commenced November 1 earmarks $2.5 million to fund a new living-learning community at the university called STEM STARS.  School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences faculty member and chair of the Department of Natural Sciences Dr. Jonathan Cumming (pictured at left) will co-lead start-up efforts.

The purpose of the initiative, according to the HHMI, is to “create inclusive environments, promote student success and recognize the institutional practices and historical context that are barriers to inclusion.”

Cumming, along with Dr. Victor Hsia (pictured at right), chair of the Pharmaceutical Sciences program, will start the Students Achieving Results in Science program at UMES by hiring a director, recruiting the first cohort, identifying a residence hall to serve as the living-learning community for the STARS and by creating an internship program.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for the university to provide value-added training and wrap-around support to our STEM majors,” Cumming said.  “Activities such as early research experiences on campus, off-campus research internships and a variety of professional peer group workshops will ensure that a broad section of UMES students will be prepared for future careers in science.”

UMES, which was among six universities to receive the competitive award nationwide, has awarded 60 percent of its degrees over the past several years in STEM fields. Selection was based on a self-study process involving assessments regarding the university’s dedication to “establishing a scientifically grounded culture to the institution.” The goal of the STEM STARS program is to help in the collaborative effort to diversify STEM fields and the future workforce.

From the pool of 38 finalists for the Driving Change grants, the six that “made strong arguments for their readiness to embark on this change journey” were successful in receiving the funds.

Gail Stephens, agricultural communications, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, UMES Extension,, 410-621-3850.

This article was based on information contributed by the UMES Office of Public Relations.

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