We believe an institution embodies inclusive excellence to the extent that it pursues and achieves its scientific and educational goals within a pervasive culture of inclusion—that is, an intellectual climate which is founded on the diversity of identities, backgrounds and perspectives of its members, which is committed to supporting the hard work of its members, and which expects that all members play a vital role in the community.

Summer Catalyst Research Experience

Image of a drawing produced during at conference which displays the text, What Does Inclusive Excellence Look Like in Your College Campus.

Four projects are being offered as a collaboration between URSI and HHMI Grand Challenges. Apply now


The Grand Challenges Program is an opportunity for students to actively shape our Vassar experience, to equip ourselves and future students to critically understand climate change and its accompanying injustices, and to use our distinct perspectives to collaboratively construct solutions. Discover resources for getting involved, such as professors who are integrating climate change into their work and teaching, classes that address environmental problems, ways to create your own programming, and more. -Sophie Cash VC ’19


Professor and Students in a class

The Grand Challenge program is fostering a community of faculty and students coming together to tackle complex interdisciplinary problems. As the problems evolve, so do our ways to teach, learn, and collaborate. Explore how the Grand Challenges program can facilitate our evolution as teachers, scholars, and members of an engaged community.

Our Vision

Founded in 2018 with the help of a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Grand Challenges program fosters inclusive excellence in STEM education at Vassar College through a five-year initiative of curricular innovation, faculty development, and community engagement.

Grand Challenges Core Team 2022

In the fall of 2021 we welcomed a new Core Team that includes a mix of faculty, students and administrators who will work on the next Grand Challenge, “Inclusive Excellence”. 

  • José Perillán, Faculty Director, Associate Professor of Physics and Science, Technology and Society
  • Tom Pacio,  Administrative Director, Director of Creative Arts & Institutional Grant Innovation
  • Esteban Argudo, Assistant Professor of Economics
  • Mary Ellen Czesak, Lecturer and Lab Coordinator in Biology
  • Krystle McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • ​​Maya Pelletier, Environmental Studies Major, ‘22
  • Eréndira Rueda, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Latin American & Latino/a Studies
  • Kathleen Susman, Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Biology

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