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In Winter 2019, the Honors Program launched a new student-support opportunity called the
Catalyst Grant that provides support to first- and second-year students for research or leadership development experiences that involve serious engagement with diversity, equity, inclusion, or social justice issues. Designed to catalyze meaningful engagement in issues with which students may have little formal experience, the grant process opens with a workshop on writing a grant proposal. After funds are awarded, grantees are enrolled in a network of other fund recipients and advisors. The goals of the Catalyst Grant are to reduce cost barriers to engaging in activities, to foster a community of support for students managing projects and developing professional skills, and to provide a forum in which they can share with others the impact of their work while raising awareness about opportunities for DEI and social justice engagement among their peers.
Sarah Landes received funds to support the expansion of a campus organization called F.E.M.M.E.S. (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and Science), which currently has STEM-experience programs for students in 4th through 8th grade. With support from the Catalyst Grant matched by additional grants from the University, Sarah began creating a program designed to further develop 9th to 11th grade students’ interest in STEM fields and to deepen their familiarity with U-M’s STEM programs, faculty, and facilities. Sarah explained that she was inspired to extend F.E.M.M.E.S’ reach because she “want[ed] to create the resources for the next group of scientists so that they can achieve what they set out to do.” Having spent the summer serving as a volunteer group leader and gathering assessment data from the younger-age group programs, she felt better informed about how to proceed with her high school outreach program. "The Honors Catalyst Grant has allowed me to experience creating a program that I am passionate about and helped me realize that program development is something I want to pursue as a career," Sarah writes. She is continuing to develop the F.E.M.M.E.S. high school program as a part of her Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts project, and she plans to continue developing expertise in program development and assessment in a Master’s of Public Health program after graduating from U-M.