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EDU/Covid-19 Challenge


Covid-19 Challenge Winners


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Winners and Honorable Mentions

Congratulations awardees and challenge participants, and thank you for your excellent submissions to the Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge.

After careful consideration, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $25,000 in cash prizes to the following winning institutions of higher education: Laredo Community College, TX, Fort Lewis College, CO, University of Missouri, MO, and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, IN.

Winning challenge participants shared interventions, such as launching a graduate student well-being program, providing accessible and free Wi-Fi connectivity on and near campus and shifting institutional policies to automatically grant tenure clock extensions to faculty.

The full list of winners and honorable mentions can be found below. NSF distributed a total of $200,000 in cash prizes. An NSF-hosted showcase of the winning interventions was held in July 2022 (links to recordings below). An open access repository of winning entries and honorable mentions created for the benefit of all institutions can be accessed at: Institutions may adapt or adopt interventions shared in the repository to mitigate the long-term negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic at their institutions. This repository will also be available in the event of any future pandemics.

NSF Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Challenge Winners Showcases - July 14 to 19

If you were unable to join the live showcase event, the links to the recordings are below.

STEM Faculty
When: Jul 14, 2022 01:30 PM Eastern Time
Topic: NSF Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge Winners Showcase: STEM Faculty
Link to the recording:

STEM Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers
When: Jul 14, 2022 04:30 PM Eastern Time
Topic: NSF Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge Winners Showcase: STEM Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers
Link to recording:

STEM Undergraduates-2 Year IHEs
When: Jul 15, 2022 02:30 PM Eastern Time
Topic: NSF Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge Winners Showcase: STEM Undergraduates-2 Year IHEs
Link to recording:

STEM Undergraduates-4 Year IHEs
When: Jul 19, 2022 02:30 PM Eastern Time
Topic: NSF Taking Action: COVID-19 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Challenge Winners Showcase: STEM Undergraduates-4 Year IHEs
Link to recording:


Full List of Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Two-year STEM undergraduate category

  • $25,000 - Laredo Community College, TX
    Laredo College is a Hispanic Serving Institution annually serving nearly 10,000 students in the border city of Laredo, Texas. As part of their local response to the global pandemic, Laredo College focused on the mental health of their students, and worked to improve access to technology. Recognizing that more students would be starting online course in an unfamiliar setting, they created a virtual backpack to help prepare students to take their courses remotely. They also supported English Language Learners with Spanish-language digital resources throughout the transition to online instruction.

  • $15,000 - Palo Alto College, TX
    Palo Alto College is a Hispanic Serving Institution, and one of five Alamo Colleges and annually serves more than 11,000 students near San Antonio, Texas. The pandemic created outreach difficulties that would normally attract first-time college students, and they experienced a decrease in enrollment. They were able to build a virtual camp for high school students, and secured a state grant to cover all camp expenses. They also improved the admission process reducing the number of steps from eleven to three, and making it easier for students to receive state required vaccines at no-cost.

  • $10,000 - Sinclair Community College, OH
    Sinclair Community College annually serves approximately 8,000 students in the Dayton region of Ohio. Like most colleges, Sinclair was faced with the need to turn a multi-year plan to deploy and improve virtual instruction into a one-month plan. They dedicated resources that would improve virtual instruction through support coaches to help faculty with their academic needs. As a result, they created a sustainable plan to improve student outcomes in a number of different modalities. Their focus on this area improved student access to academic supports, and can be part of the college's standard operating plan moving forward.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical)

  • Doña Ana Community College, NM
  • LaGuardia Community College, NY
  • Montgomery College, MD
  • Wenatchee Valley College, WA

Four-year STEM undergraduate category

  • $25,000 - Fort Lewis College, CO
    Fort Lewis College, a native American serving, non-tribal institution, awards more undergraduate degrees to Native American students than any other college in the U.S. Prior to COVID-19, first-to-second year retention rates among native students increased from 55% to 67% between 2015-2019; however, for the 2020 first-year cohort there was a 20% decline to 47%. The short-term impacts of COVID-19 revealed challenges in student academic preparedness. Many of the challenges have been exacerbated among Native American students, all of whom are pursuing STEM degrees, and at a stage where college readiness is critical. The Fort Lewis College Taking Action submission describes three evidence-based and system efforts (first-year launch course, foundational mathematics support, and holistic student support services) to increase student success, retention and ultimately in the long-term, conferral of STEM baccalaureate degrees.

  • $15,000 - Pacific Lutheran University, WA
    Many college students and their families experienced financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to declining enrollments. In an effort to minimize such financial burdens, Pacific Lutheran University describes two enrollment initiatives in their Taking Action submission. First, the PLUS Year program affords 1-year (two additional semesters) tuition free to all undergraduate students who were continuously enrolled at full-time status in both Fall and Spring semesters starting in Fall 2020. Secondly, the Fixed Tuition Guarantee Program ensures that tuition for the 2022-2023 incoming class of first year and transfer student will remain the same throughout their undergraduate years. Together, these efforts are anticipated to curb the financial challenges, leading to increased student enrollment, persistence, and graduation.

  • $10,000 - North Carolina A&T University, NC
    At North Carolina A&T State University, the nation's largest HBCU, over 1,700 students from the College of Health and Human Sciences failed to return to classes when COVID-19 forced the transition of all classes to online instruction modes in March 2020. This placed students at risk of dropping out, and coupled with known psychosocial determinants of health, students were at greater risk for exposure to COVID-19, exacerbating their anxieties and stress levels. The Taking Action submission describes the development of a mobile application, The Student Hangar, a resource hub that connects students with counseling, food, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, social, protective and other resources geographically closest to them. The data generated by usage of the mobile application can inform sociological, psychological and engineering education literature on the social determinants of student success and has the potential to decrease the psychosocial disparities uncovered in the remote learning environment.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical)

  • Nevada State College, NV
  • North Carolina State University, NC
  • The Ohio State University, OH
  • The University of Texas at Austin, TX
  • University of Notre Dame, IN

STEM Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar category

  • $25,000 - University of Missouri, MO
    The University of Missouri is focusing on the long-term impact of COVID on the mental health and well-being of graduate students, especially those from underrepresented populations. In the Spring of 2020, the institution made a $500,000 commitment to support doctoral candidates. In 2021 the Graduate School formed the Graduate Student Mental Health task force and secured funding for a Graduate Student Success Center. Building on these efforts, the Graduate School is developing the Grad Huddle. This will be a communal space for graduate students to cultivate a sense of belonging through peer and near-peer cohorts. It will facilitate meaningful interactions and support for STEM graduate students from populations underrepresented in STEM. Plans for assessment and evaluation of long-term impact of the program are included.

  • $15,000 - University of California, Irvine, CA
    At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), 20% of the student population is Hispanic, Latino, or Pacific Islanders. Surveys demonstrated that COVID exacerbated the already existing challenges for many of these students working as teaching assistants, especially with pivoting to remote learning. In support of these students, the UCI developed three different initiatives. Fellowships were provided for students to conduct contact tracing. A Summer Fellows program was also developed to train graduate students in inclusive pedagogy, with a focus on cultural competency, and innovative technologies. Assessment of the program demonstrated improved outcomes for undergraduate students from underrepresented populations taught by Fellows. In addition, UCI offered funding for summer research to graduate students from underrepresented populations who had a record of participation in DEI activities such as mentoring other students from underrepresented populations. Support for Graduate Inclusive Excellence Fellows continued in 2021 and is expected to continue in the future. All of these initiatives are undergoing iterative improvement through assessment and evaluation.

  • $10,000 - New Mexico State University, NM
    At New Mexico State University (NMSU), an HSI, many of the graduate students from underrepresented populations suffered increased disconnectedness and lack of relational support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The University used this as an opportunity to renew focus on graduate student support and developed the Graduate Student Well-Being Program to support STEM graduate students. Launched in Spring 2022 and using a peer-to peer approach, the Program is identifying graduate student needs, and implementing a wide range of programs with a theme of developing servingness. The program will continue with evaluation and continuous improvement.

STEM Faculty category

  • $25,000 - Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN
    The IUPUI Taking Action entry attended to gender and racial equity issues exacerbated by the pandemic and built on the equity recommendations formulated by the NSF INCLUDES ASPIRE Alliance. One element of the IUPUI entry was the development and approval of a new promotion and tenure option based on diversity, equity, and inclusion work that went into effect in 2022. This change recognizes and rewards the mentoring, service, and change agent labor that many faculty of color and women take on within institutions of higher education - the demand for which greatly increased during the pandemic.

  • $15,000 - University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA
    The University of Massachusetts Amherst's Taking Action entry described a collaborative effort that involved the provost office, faculty union, faculty senate, the office of faculty development, as well as the UMass NSF ADVANCE team. Together they were able to quickly develop and implement a suite of policies and programs to support faculty including financial support to faculty for increased dependent care costs.

  • $10,000 - University of Delaware, DE
    The University of Delaware's (UD) Taking Action entry described an expeditious collaborative effort between the institution leadership, the faculty union, and the UD ADVANCE Institute to develop a comprehensive set of policies to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic on STEM faculty. A novel effort was to end unnecessary service work for faculty. Importantly, UD has several offices and individuals whose job include monitoring DEI of faculty who will support the long-term monitoring and reporting of institutional faculty data for decades to come.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical)

  • Florida International University, FL
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, NJ
  • Spelman College, GA
  • Texas A&M University, TX
  • University of California, Irvine, CA
  • University of Illinois, Chicago, IL
  • Villanova University, PA
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute, MA