oSTEM Chapter Earns National Award for LGBTQ Outreach in STEM
From left: Taylor Williams, Jordan Burleigh, Lillian Pinkston, Adan Rutiaga, Kagan DuPuy-Reagan, Pam McGinnis (president of Global Marketing at Phillips66, a UA graduate and member of College of Engineering Dean's Advisory Council), Daisy Mota, Zachary Renfro, Jennifer Avellaneda, Lizbeth Juarez, Eindra Nwe, Jack West, Dakota Dale, Kaleb Kassaw, Kayla Midlam and professor Benjamin Runkle.
A University of Arkansas student group has been recognized nationally for its work to empower LGBTQ-plus people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The University of Arkansas chapter of oSTEM, which stands for Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, earned the "Rookie Chapter of the Year" award at the national oSTEM conference in November for its rapid growth and outreach efforts providing professional and academic development for LGBTQ students.
The local chapter began at the start of the 2018 academic year and already has more than 75 members. The national oSTEM organization praised the chapter for "acting as a crucial and convenient source of social activity, networking, comfort, as well as academic and professional development for the LGBTQ-plus student community in Northwest Arkansas."
A delegation from the University of Arkansas traveled to Houston to accept the award.
Jack West, biomedical engineering major and president of the University of Arkansas oSTEM chapter, said the recognition was gratifying and motivating.
"Organizations like oSTEM are important on any campus, academic or professional, because they create a safe space for students who share common interests to come together and be authentic versions of themselves," he said.
"First-year LGBTQ-plus students in a STEM major are almost 10 percent less likely to pursue their STEM career than heterosexual counterparts, meaning they lack space, mentors, resources and help that many people don't think twice about having. oSTEM is here to fill that space and help drop that statistic. Being recognized at the national conference was, and still is, incredible, especially considering we are just finishing our first semester. I'm very proud of the team with which I work and the members of the Arkansas chapter that inspire me and give me a reason to play the role I do."
Benjamin Runkle, the faculty co-adviser and professor of biological and agricultural engineering, said the award was an appreciation of the hard work the group and its leaders put into starting a chapter. He encourages further participation from across the campus's STEM fields in upcoming events; the group welcomes undergraduate and graduate members as well as faculty or staff participation.
West encouraged anyone interested in learning more to visit the group's HogSync page and attend a chapter meeting.
Nick DeMoss, director of communications
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