Thanks in part to a grant from the General Motors Foundation, Kettering University will soon become one of a growing number of universities nationwide to have an oSTEM chapter.
As part of GM’s commitment to promoting diversity in STEM fields, a portion of a grant presented in September will help Kettering launch an oSTEM chapter. oStem -- Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (www.oSTEM.org) -- is a national society “educating and fostering leadership for LGBTQA communities in the STEM fields.” The mission of the organization fits with GM’s goal to foster more diversity in the industry. Three colleges – University of Michigan, Western Michigan and Michigan Tech – have established oSTEM chapters in Michigan. Albion College, Lawrence Tech and Michigan State University are currently in the process of forming chapters.
“Support of organizations like oSTEM is in alignment with our goals of promoting a diverse workforce, attracting the best and brightest students studying STEM subjects and appealing to a diverse customer base,” said Bob Dziurda, Integration Engineer, GM Plus LGBT Policy Chair and Kettering University Lead Talent Scout for General Motors. “GM has been a leader in LGBT workplace equality since 2000 and we are one of the most progressive automotive companies in terms of outreach to the LGBT community. We strongly believe a diverse workforce is key to future success.”
Kettering currently has a student organization, Kettering Allies, which provides support to LGBTQA students. Allies will continue to exist while oSTEM will give students access to a national organization aimed at promoting opportunities and inclusion in STEM fields.
“Allies will continue as is, as an informal hang-out or safe space for students to get together and support each other,” said Kimberly Marquette, a senior Industrial Engineering major and the lead student in forming Kettering’s oSTEM chapter. “oSTEM is more of a professional organization that offers partnerships with companies and increased professional development opportunities and support.”
The GM Foundation funding helped students from Kettering attend the 2013 oSTEM National Meeting in New York in 2013. It featured students from colleges all over the country. Kettering’s students were able to get feedback and advice as they go through the process of forming their own chapter as well as participate in a variety of workshops and sessions, including programs focused on adding LGBTQA voices in STEM and tech policy conversations, support for being out in a work environment, promoting inclusion and acceptance in K-12 STEM curriculum, finding STEM mentors through network and more.
“The conference was a great opportunity to learn and connect with resources,” said Tyler Garavaglia, a Computer Science major at Kettering and member of Allies. “We were able to do a lot of networking and connect with students and professionals from all over the country.”
Not only did Kettering students benefit from attending the conference, they were able to tell students from other colleges about the unique opportunities they have at Kettering.
“We mentioned the experiences we get in our co-op jobs, and when the people from other schools heard about it, they had a lot of questions and interest in what we were doing at Kettering,” Garavaglia said.
The formation of an oSTEM chapter is particularly important as a resource for students as diversity, inclusion and offering leadership opportunities for minorities is increasingly important in all professions. oSTEM will offer Kettering LGBTQA students unique resources tailored to their experiences in the corporate world.
“Having an oSTEM presence at Kettering will be huge for students,” Marquette said. “Companies love diversity, and the LGBTQA community in STEM is a huge untapped market and network. Belonging to an organization like this will help increase the marketability of all of our members.”
“Organizations like oSTEM foster a deeper sense of inclusion for students in the STEM fields,” Dziurda said. “The organization provides opportunities for leadership experiences as well as world class networking. This can only do great things for the Kettering students and campus. GM is honored to be a part of it.”
oSTEM will not only be a resource to its members on campus, but also to non-members as well. oSTEM members will be equipped to provide training and raise awareness of the LGBTQA community for all students, faculty and staff.
“Our main goal is to just increase awareness and inclusivity,” Marquette said. “The more comfortable people are with each other, the better.”
The group is currently working with Kettering’s Office of Multicultural Initiatives to develop a constitution, find sponsors and finalize other administrative tasks. Ideally, Marquette hopes that the chapter will be fully operational by late winter or early spring of 2014.
Visit www.oSTEM.org for more information on the organization.