Best-practices pedagogy in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) aims for inclusive excellence that fosters student persistence. This paper describes principles of inclusivity across 11 primarily undergraduate institutions designated as Capstone Awardees in Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) 2012 competition. The Capstones represent a range of institutional missions, student profiles, and geographical locations. Each successfully directed activities toward persistence of STEM students, especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups, through a set of common elements: mentoring programs to build community; research experiences to strengthen scientific skill/ identity; attention to quantitative skills; and outreach/bridge programs to broaden the student pool. This paper grounds these program elements in learning theory, emphasizing their essential principles with examples of how they were implemented within institutional contexts. We also describe common assessment approaches that in many cases informed programming and created traction for stakeholder buy-in. The lessons learned from our shared experiences in pursuit of inclusive excellence, including the resources housed on our companion website, can inform others’ efforts to increase access to and persistence in STEM in higher education.