Creating Equitable Pathways to STEM Graduate Education

Funding Agency:
Sloan Foundation, Alfred P.

The DEI in STEM Higher Education Program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is seeking to invest in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and in the establishment of partnerships between MSIs and graduate programs at other colleges and universities. The Foundation’s Equity-Minded Pathways to STEM Graduate Education program will support institutional pathways from MSIs to master’s and doctoral degree programs in astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, data science, Earth sciences, economics, engineering, marine science, mathematics, physics, and statistics. Our intent is to create and strengthen diverse, inclusive, and equitable pathways to and through STEM graduate education with the recognition that student pathways are too often disrupted by systemic racism, discrimination, and bias through prevailing institutional and departmental policy and practice. We acknowledge that some innovative work is already underway across the country, but much more work needs to be done.

With these understandings, the Sloan Foundation is soliciting Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) for projects that seek to dismantle systemic barriers and create sustainable pathways to graduate education in the above disciplines for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students. Compelling LOIs will result in the invitation of a full proposal. Proposed projects may take multiple forms, for example, planning activities on MSI campuses that set the stage for new pathways between MSIs and graduate programs at other MSIs or at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs); projects that establish mutually beneficial partnerships between undergraduate and graduate programs at two or more institutions, at least one of which must be a MSI; and reform of graduate recruitment efforts, admission policies and processes, mentoring practices, and other gatekeeping (or gateway) structures within STEM graduate programs that open doors for students from MSIs. In short, we are looking to invest in efforts that seek to change the nature of graduate pathways at multiple levels, instead of reinforcing existing systems that fail to truly serve many Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students.

One key area of focus for this work is on changing the actions—and the mindsets—of STEM faculty such that they demonstrate not only a willingness, but a commitment, to sustained and mutually beneficial partnerships with MSIs.

Three types of grants will be funded:

  1. Planning grants to support two or more institutions to conduct internal reviews of existing barriers to student success and for analysis and planning for future systemic change partnerships/collaborations ($75,000 for 1 year);
  2. Seed grants to support work at two or more institutions that seek to formalize existing systemic change partnerships/collaborations and launch a small set of pilot initiatives ($250,000 over 1-2 years); and
  3. Implementation grants to support work at two or more institutions that allow for the creation, augmentation or scaling of significant formal systemic change partnerships/collaborations ($500,000 over 2-3 years).

We request only one letter of inquiry (as the lead institutional partner) per institution, and only one submission per individual PI. We expect to award up to 3 implementation grants, with additional funding going to planning and seed grants. Another Call for Letters of Inquiry is expected to take place in 2022 and 2023, during which time planning/seed grants funded in 2021 will be eligible for an award to scale their efforts. Over time, it is expected that the Foundation will seek to invest in successful efforts at more substantial grant amounts.


  • Duke Internal: April 30, 2021
  • Letter of Intent: June 1, 2021

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Institutions/organizations eligible as partners for the grant awards include:

  • Non-profit two- and four-year institutions
  • Institutional systems or consortia of institutions
  • Professional societies and associations
  • University-affiliated research centers or laboratories

All projects must have at least one MSI partner. When two or more institutions are the proposed grantees, it is preferred that the primary PI be housed at the MSI.

Lead investigators from submitting and partner institutions should be at the full, associate, or assistant professor level, a department chair, or in an administrative role with high connectivity to academic positions. Such individuals should come from non-profit two- and/or four-year institutions, or organizations that serve higher education professionals or institutions. Submissions from diverse teams led by women and Black, Latinx, and Indigenous individuals are strongly encouraged.

Funding Type



Women and minorities encouraged


Community Outreach and Engagement
Curriculum Development
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences

Internal Nomination

Owing to the sponsor's restriction on the number of applications that may be submitted from Duke, anyone wishing to pursue nomination should submit the following materials as one PDF:

  • 1 page project summary
  • specify Planning, Seed, or Implementation grant
  • PI name and contact info
  • collaborators names/institutions

Please submit internal materials through My Research Proposal. (Code ILN):  

Instructions for creating an account (if needed) and submitting your materials:

Internal Deadline

April 30, 2021

External Deadline

June 1, 2021