Developed by: Northwestern University & Boston University


The culture of equity and inclusion in STEM disciplines is created and promulgated largely within the STEM department and program structure. The mores, values, and habits that impact equity and inclusion in research departments and programs are supported by the cultural history of that department or program; more so than by the school, university or disciplinary society. As such, creating lasting cultural change implies that those within the STEM departments and programs must engage in the work of advancing inclusion themselves, must design the intervention, implement it, and assess its impact, since only then will the sociological structures they and their colleagues support change. Change must be internal to the structure itself.

Mini-grants are mechanisms that support the local development of capacity and outcomes aligned with AGEP goals within departments and programs. These grant programs support STEM departments, programs, and groups and fund activities such as speakers, conferences, colloquia, workshops, roundtables, or dialogues that advance the professional development of faculty to support inclusive research environments for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

Often these grants co-sponsor collaborative professional development activities and it is expected that departments, programs, or groups will contribute both staff and faculty effort as well as financially to any program proposed, to ensure buy-in. They require a baseline set of actions on the part of the awardee, generally an application describing the challenge, approach, implementation, assessment and budget; a co-developed evaluation instrument; and reporting at mid-point and end of year with analysis of evaluation, outcomes, impacts, and future plans.

Goals & Objectives

  1. Build capacity for designing, delivering and evaluating professional development that advances inclusivity in research environments in STEM departments and programs.
  2. Build a community of practitioners within STEM departments and programs with the self-efficacy to design and deliver effective professional development and programs.
  3. Create sustainable, local structures within STEM departments and programs that are locally recognized and supported that advance inclusivity of research environments.

Partner Engagement

  • STEM departments: STEM departments are the central organizational structures underpinning the culture of inclusion in research. Partnering with STEM departments in support of seminars, trainings, panels, retreats, affinity and peer group activities that advance inclusion in research environments is the goal of the collaborative grant program. STEM departments generally have faculty, staff and graduate students who are interested in advancing inclusivity through professional development, and willing to partner and do the work. But, they may lack certain skills, which they are generally eager to develop: Partnering with a central unit allows faculty, staff and graduate students to build necessary expertise and knowledge of effective interventions, gain experience in implementing effective professional development, and develop their awareness and knowledge of program design and program evaluation and assessment.
  • Centers and interdisciplinary graduate programs: Research centers, interdisciplinary programs, and extra-departmental structures are great partners, better than STEM departments themselves in many ways. Centers generally have a well-formed, if narrow professional identity, tend to be recently formed and have a stronger desire to advance inclusivity, if for no better reason than to impress funding agencies. Centers also tend to be more nimble and flexible, without traditional STEM department hierarchies. Thus Centers and programs are great partners for Collaborative Inclusivity Grants. The same value of capacity building as departments applies.
  • Schools: Schools within a university are also excellent partners, especially if they serve a subset of the population, for example the graduate school or an engineering school. Their focus can be on the graduate students and their research experience, they are typically run by a small group of administrators and don’t answer to faculty directly, and DEI work is often seen as their purview and mission. Schools are more removed from the STEM department and program culture, so their impact in terms of cultural change is typically less.

Planning & Logistics

  1. Develop and implement common expectations for the mini-grant awardees, reporting, and evaluation structure
  2. Advertise and create the application process
  3. Work with each awardee as they begin to implement their project
  4. Reporting and sharing among community
  5. Follow up for sustainability

Examples of Collaborative Inclusivity Grants:

ProjectDepartment / School / CenterActivities FundedMajor OutcomesSustainment
Peer Diversity Mentoring ProgramThe Graduate School, NorthwesternMentoring training; peer-diversity leader; co-designed eval; led workshops20-30 mentor-mentee pairs of URM PhD students work together every yearSustained by the Graduate School
Social Justice Graduate Student SeminarCenter for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, NorthwesternSeminar speakers; co-designed evaluation3-4 DEI speakers hosted by CIERA graduate students; advancing discussions of DEI in researchSustained by CIERA
Annual Hilliard Symposium – Diversity Speaker SeriesMaterials Science and Engineering Department, Northwestern UniversitySpeaker and DEI workshop leader for Grad Student annual symposiumInfusing DEI concepts into research in MSESustained by MSE department
Graduate Student Peer Mentoring ProgramPhysics & Astronomy Department, Northwestern UniversityConference; coffee cards; mentoring workshops; co-designed eval; supported development of charter40 mentor-mentee pairs of new and advanced PhD students in P&A work together in a peer mentoring program throughout the yearSustained by the P&A department
Emerging Women Leaders ProgramBoston UniversityThemed workshops;
mentor networking events; Career and leadership training
Sustained funded program with 6 mentees per year, 2 mentors in two mentoring circles coupled with professional developmentSustained by the School of Public Health
Learn More SeriesBoston UniversityUniversity-wide event series co-sponsored by individual faculty or staff related to DEI themesAGEP funds went to events specifically targeting issues in our driver diagram associated with graduate educationSustained by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Associated Costs

ItemUnit Cost# of UnitsCost
Staff or faculty effortVariable, based on salary0.1-0.5 monthsVariable
Speaker honorariumVariable, but typically $500-$10001 per grantVariable
Room fees$400-$800 per eventVariable based on awardVariable
Total$2500-$5000 per grantVariable

Assessment options

We partnered with the individual awardees to develop the appropriate evaluation for their program. For example, the Emerging Women Leaders program used a mixed-methods approach with surveys and focus groups, while the Learn More Series developed a standard core block of survey questions for all events and then each organizer developed 1-2 additional evaluation questions. Both Northwestern peer mentoring programs developed surveys associated with program goals, with several rounds of feedback. Sample evaluation surveys could be made available by request.

Attribution Statement

For those that might adapt and adopt this program model, please provide attribution to the BU and NU mini-grant project established in part with support from the National Science Foundation funded CIRTL AGEP Project.

References and Resources

Nolan, J. Badiali, B., Zembal-Saul, C., Burns, R., Edmondson, J., Bauer, D., Queeny, D., & Wheland, M. (2009). Penn State-State College Elementary Professional Development School collaborative: A profile. School-University Partnerships, 3, 19–30.

Contact for More Information

Bennett Goldberg,
Sarah Hokanson,