SLS Awards 2020 - Outstanding Student Organization
Gender Minorities in STEM (GemSTEM) is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Student Organization Award. One of SLS’ student staff members caught up with a GemSTEM representative recently to learn more about the great work they have been doing at Lewis & Clark.
The GemSTEM club provides an intersectional space for students of diverse identities who are passionate about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to build community and support each other. They meet bi-weekly to discuss study techniques, how to access extracurricular opportunities, and the role of research in ethics. They also plan events, host speakers, and organize a graduate school panel every year. A group of seniors across departments founded the club to remedy the lack of formal spaces for gender minorities at L&C in STEM to connect and advocate, despite L&C’s STEM departments already having a lot of gender minority students in their majors.
While GemSTEM is only in its second year, they have organized large events such as the annual Gender Minorities in STEM brunch. Planned in collaboration with Reed College, this event engaged 60+ students, staff and faculty members in discussions about current challenges related to gender minoritization as well as potential interventions. The brunch also provided opportunities to build strong peer connections and mentor relationships with faculty who are further ahead in their careers, thus centering minorities who have historically been excluded from traditional networking practices.
Luca Sax, one of the club’s leaders, shared that the brunch was the organization’s highlight for the year! They said, “faculty speakers from both colleges talked about their research as well as their intersectional identities as a female scientist of color and as an LGBTQ* person in STEM. Seeing these faculty members being leaders in their fields, by discovering new knowledge and creating inclusive spaces, was very empowering and encouraging for us students.”
GemSTEM community members are leaders in many areas of their professional lives. They facilitate inclusive group work in classes, contribute to sports teams, and do research in labs. Beyond that, the club is dedicated to making STEM not just more inclusive for gender minorities but also for ethnic minorities, racial minorities, religious minorities and students with disabilities. They are currently formulating a plan to better serve all underrepresented minority Lewis & Clark students in STEM fields. When asked how SLS and L&C community might best support GemSTEM, Luca emphasized the importance of outreach because they “believe that seeing someone like you and receiving mentorship from them helps young STEM majors build resilience and increases the retention of traditionally underrepresented people.”
“Additionally, we at GemSTEM are always looking for more people who want to be involved in our work. So if you are interested in joining please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! We are always looking to collaborate with other clubs and unions on campus so if that is something you would like to get in touch about, please also feel free to get in touch. GemSTEM would like to congratulate the graduating seniors on their achievements! We know how much work, energy, time and resilience they have invested in their studies and their communities. We are so proud of you and are sure that you will do wonderful things in the future!”