Mercy Awarded With a $1 Million Grant By Howard Hughes Institute

Mercy Awarded With a $1 Million Grant By Howard Hughes Institute

Mercy College was elected and awarded from nearly 600 schools by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to receive a grant worth $1 million this past summer. The HHMI organization is recruiting schools with this inclusive excellence program to help students become leaders in the science fields.

This program is trying to target specifically students such as underrepresented ethnic minorities, first generation college students or working adults with families.

From 594 schools that applied, only 140 were contacted later to submit proposals about the plans and ideas on how this grant will help their science programs.

After the final proposals were accepted, only 57 colleges and universities were awarded. Selected schools will receive $1 million in grant support over five years and work with HHMI and its partner, the Association of America Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to engage in the process of culture change.

Many students will have more opportunities thanks to these kinds of awards. Not every institution can invest their money or time to help schools or students, specifically students that don’t have the opportunity to get a higher education as college. Institutes as HHMI, are trying to integrate students that will love to become involved in science fields and that due to their ethnic background, many of these students have less possibilities on pursuing a college degree.

According to the president of HHMI, Erin O’Shea, what the institute is trying to do is to encourage colleges and universities to change the way they do business, to become institutions with a significantly greater capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those from nontraditional backgrounds. According to O’Shea, thanks to these generous awards, more students that have passion in science fields will have access to more scholarships, better and advanced programs and the opportunity to give back the community with their medical research ideas.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institution is a science philanthropy whose mission is to advance basic biomedical research and science education for the benefit of humanity. Their headquarters are in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

“For 60 years, HHMI has been moving science forward. We’re an independent, ever-evolving philanthropy that supports basic biomedical scientists and educators with the potential for transformative impact. HHMI scientists have radically advanced the understanding of cells, the brain, the immune system, the development of organs, and how to treat many diseases,” according to the HHMI website.


The HHMI was founded by the American businessman Howard Hughes in 1953. Howard Hughes, in full Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., lived from 1905-1976. He was an American manufacturer, aviator, and motion-picture producer and director who acquired enormous wealth and celebrity from his various ventures but was perhaps better known for his eccentricities, especially his reclusiveness.

Late in 1953, Hughes created the medical institute that bears his name and decided to fund its work through the profits of the Hughes Aircraft Company. In signing the documents to create HHMI on Dec. 17, 1953, Hughes pursued a characteristically bold course of action: He wished to create an institute committed to basic research, to probe into “the genesis of life itself.”

Annual investments in biomedical research is about $825 million and is considered the second-wealthiest philanthropic organization in the U.S. and the second best endowed medical research foundation in the world.

The senior director from the HHMI institute, David J. Asia, believes that if a school can become more inclusive, the students will have a greater opportunity to be successful.

The institute doesn’t have success stories yet, since the program hasn’t been around for that long. It started around a year ago and Mercy began its grant in September of this year, but institutions are working with the faculties and faculty members in order to learn how to be more inclusive in their teaching. Mercy got the attention of all the 600 schools because Mercy is emphasizing a development on faculty and adjunct faculty.

The senior director, David Asia, expects the following from all the grantee institutions: to try ideas that are aimed at changing the culture of the university, measure progress (or lack of progress), and openly share with others about what is being learned.

Mercy’s science department is thankful and excited about the project. Dr. Renée E. Haskew-Layton, Assistant Professor, Program Head Biology, said the science department was very excited to find out that Mercy was one of 33 colleges and universities awarded by HHMI Inclusive Excellence funding in 2018.

The Inclusive Excellence initiative represents Mercy’s commitment to shape institutional practices and strategic planning through equity-minded principles. Through this initiative science department aim to foster a sense of belonging, and to enhance the diversity of viewpoints, confidence, creativity, innovation, and citizenship in the Mercy College community.

It is important for Mercy College to have connections with institutions such as HHMI because it is committed on promoting innovation and inclusion in science education and in fostering the growth of future scientists from diverse backgrounds. Mercy College shares these same values.

The HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative will initially focus on the biology major with plans to carry out future initiatives across the college. There are two arms to this initiative. First, the use of data-analytics to identify the barriers faced by biology majors and implementation of data-driven practices to address these challenges. Second is for the adjunct academy. Mercy College currently heavily relies on part-time adjunct instructors for teaching majority of our courses. They teach majority of the first- and second-year courses in the biology major. Due to limitations to the number of courses they can teach, they are forced to split their time between several jobs.

“This reduces their availability to participate in professional development activities and planning and implementation of high impact practices in their course. To remediate this problem, the HHMI grant focuses on providing training and support to adjunct instructors in creating inclusive pedagogies and high impact teaching practices in the courses they teach. We strongly believe that these efforts will positively impact the student and adjunct instructor’s sense of belonging, their performance and positive learning experiences in their time at Mercy College.”

This initiative is about encouraging colleges and universities to change the way they do business

— Erin O’Shea, president of HHMI

Dr. Jose Herrera, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, believes that this was an award that was manifested by lots of work by a collaborative team of Mercy faculty and staff. Mercy’s faculty earned this for their hard work, he commented. Also, Mercy College has been awarded grants larger than $1 million dollars however, “this is Mercy’s first grant awarded from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a prestigious, and well internationally-recognized foundation,” according to Herrera.All these lucky schools, including Mercy College, will be learning and incrementing a lot of their knowledge thanks to these generous sponsors as the HHMI. Students on science fields will have more doors opened to research and experiment new techniques for future patterns.