Dow Chemical Company: Grants for STEM Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Dow Chemical is a corporate goliath that has recently stepped up its corporate responsibility activity, including philanthropic giving. The corporation’s giving is tied almost indistinguishably to its corporate citizenship program. Two of its main priorities are higher education and K-12 STEM education. The latter focus sometimes incorporates initiatives from postsecondary institutions. Dow also offers community awards and has a matching gifts program.

IP TAKE: Dow’s philanthropy is closely integrated with efforts to boost its reputation as a responsible corporate citizen. In addition to a handful of signature high-profile programs, Dow also directs several million in grants to a long list of colleges and universities.

PROFILE: In 2004, incoming CEO Andrew Liveris named a new director of corporate citizenship and made it a priority for Dow to boost philanthropic and sustainability efforts. The corporation poured $100 million into its foundation in 2006, and is now giving in the neighborhood of $25 million annually.

It has also since tried to move to an approach to giving that is better integrated with the corporation’s business strategy. That means there’s less of a distinct foundation with separate public priorities, and more of an emphasis on corporate partnerships and initiatives for sustainability, community improvement, and education.

Many partnerships are also focused on what Dow calls “building the workforce of tomorrow” and tie directly to STEM education through job training, teacher training, partnerships with higher ed institutions, and science competitions. 

Related to workforce training, Dow has a number of initiatives. For instance, it partnered with Siemens and Alcoa to study “best apprenticeship practices in Germany and other countries in Europe in support of a new U.S. model,” the result of which will be a “playbook” designed to facilitate effective apprenticeships, including for U.S. military veterans. Dow has also worked with Delta College of Midland, Michigan, to develop and implement a training program for displaced workers. The company also hosts a symposium “primarily intended to introduce African American, Hispanic, Native American U.S. doctoral and postdoctoral scientists to...careers in industrial research,” including at Dow.

Among the competitions Dow supports is the Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award, which goes to graduate students (M.A. or Ph.D.) at pre-selected universities around the world who work on sustainability research projects, especially those with an interdisciplinary component. Awards are $10,000 for the winner and $2,500 for the runner-up. 

In addition to science competitions and awards, Dow also gives many millions to universities, most notably with its “Academic Collaborations” and its “University Partnership Initiative.” Under the UPI (founded in 2011 with a commitment to give $250 million to 11 universities over 10 years), for example, Dow awarded $3.5 million to UC Berkeley to rebuild teaching labs and expand curriculum for sustainability and green building. Additionally, it gave $10 million to the University of Michigan towards the Dow sustainability Fellows Program, which “supports full-time graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at the university who are committed to finding interdisciplinary, actionable, and meaningful sustainability solutions on local-to-global scales." Like many of the university research centers and programs where Dow is a major or founding contributor, the fellowship carries the company's name.

Dow's other major priority in STEM education is for K-12 teachers and students, but awards in this focus also sometimes go through higher ed institutions. One notable example is a grant of $4 million for Delta College in Michigan, used to support its STEM Explorer initiative to bring a mobile STEM vehicle to students around the state. Dow has also partnered with Change the Equation, which looks to improve STEM education (including through teacher training), and is backer of 100kin10, an initiative to train 100,000 new STEM teachers by 2025.

One important area not to be overlooked is Dow’s Matching Gifts program, which matches donations from Dow employees dollar for dollar, up to $10,000 per individual and $100,000 per institution per year. Only colleges and universities and their affiliates are eligible for these awards.

There is also a community grant program called DowGives, which appears to serve specific communities in various regions in the U.S., including in Michigan, Tennessee, and the Delaware Valley, and for which applications are administered locally.

One final note: giving from Dow is separate from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, which gives exclusively in Michigan.

PEOPLE:

  • Neil C. Hawkins, Corporate Vice President, Environmental Health & Safety, and Chief Sustainability Officer

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