Graduate school can feel extremely isolating. Departments are largely decentralized so cross-disciplinary (or even inter-lab) interactions, professional or social, are not often facilitated at an institutional level. While this can feel isolating to anyone, this feeling of isolation is magnified when you look around and don’t see any visible peers or role models who share aspects of the same identity as you, whether that is sexuality, race, gender or any other marginalized, minority identity. When our co-founder Patrick visited Brown, he asked about the culture of the department, particularly related to sexuality. To assuage his concerns about connecting with other LGBTQ folks at Brown, members of his department connected him with our other co-founder, Ben. After a number of conversations about LGBTQ representation in STEM and frustrated with our inability to find other LGBTQ graduate student peers and role models, we sent out an interest poll in Today@Brown and received over 75 responses from other students, staff, and faculty across the University with many of our same concerns. Respondents expressed interest in systemic issues about representation and acceptance of LGBTQ people in STEM fields at Brown, curiosity about LGBTQ alumni working in STEM fields, and a desire for a more robust social community between LGBTQ peers. We knew there was a gap to fill. Since then, we have continued to grow in size while working to provide space for LGBTQ folks in STEM to come together and build community and to begin to address major issues of diversity and inclusion embedded into our academic culture, particularly in STEM fields.

Welcome to oSTEM @ Brown!

Thanks to everyone who came to our first meeting yesterday! We’re really excited about all of the interest we’ve received and look forward to working with you to start building an LGBTQ+ community of scientists, technologists, engineers, artists, mathematicians, and more comprised of undergraduates, graduates, post-docs, staff, and faculty! 

For those of you who couldn’t make it to the first meeting, here’s a quick overview:

Interest: We had 75 people express interest in the group via the online survey. Here’s the breakdown of everyone’s affiliation to Brown. Moving forward, it would be great if we could recruit more post-docs, faculty, staff, lecturers, etc. to provide a wider range of perspectives and to be able to assess the different needs of the LGBTQ+ community at Brown! Spread the word!

Why? We asked those who came to the meeting to talk about why they were interested in joining a group like oSTEM and their perceived gaps in support here at Brown.

  • Visibility in STEM at Brown and in the community. A lot of folks expressed frustrations with a lack of visibility of LGBTQ+ peers and role models, particularly in STEM. 
  • Networks at Brown and beyond. A number of students felt that there is a need for a stronger network of LGBTQ+ colleagues and professionals at Brown and beyond. How do you decide which graduate program to attend? Is it LGBTQ friendly? Should geographical region or city play a role in my decision? How do I navigate the workforce without sacrificing my identity? What resources exist to help navigate and get training for my department and colleagues at Brown?
  • A sounding board for LGBTQ+ questions and concerns. Can this group facilitate dialogue by creating a space for LGBTQ+ folks to congregate and bounce ideas off one another.

Establishing a Student Group: To be eligible for various funding opportunities and use of Brown spaces, we need to establish ourselves as a formal student group. 

  • Is oSTEM @ Brown too restrictive of a name? Some more inclusive names that were floated around include QSTEM, QSTEAM, Queer@Brown.
  • Student group recognition is regulated by SAO for undergraduates and GSC for graduate students. Are there pros/cons with respect to recognition through one versus the other?

Events & Programming: What kind of events and programming are we interested in hosting?

  • Data: LGBTQ+ issues are not being included or assessed at an institutional level. Can we promote a data gathering initiative to better understand the composition of the Brown LGBTQ+ community and subsequently assess student and staff needs?
  • Seminar Series: Can we invite LGBTQ+ folks in academia and industry to talk about how their identity played a role in navigating the workforce and life in general? 
  • Mentorship: Developing a mentorship program to foster a stronger LGBTQ+ community, to ask questions and help navigate different stages of our academic and personal lives.
  • Workshops: Can we develop workshops to teach members of the Brown community how to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ colleagues, especially in disciplines that have traditionally ignored or censored dialogue centered around identity?

Moving Forward: 

  • Establish a regular meeting schedule.
  • Begin the process of creating a formal student group.
  • Identify those who are interested in taking on a leadership role (if you indicated interest in this on the google survey we will be reaching out soon).
  • Identify LGBTQ+ academics and industry speakers who we would be interested in inviting to Brown.
  • Speak with administrators about funding sources, opportunities and institutional support.

Let us know if you have any questions, comments or concerns and thanks again for all of your interest in getting this group established!
Ben & Patrick

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