Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, September 20, 2018

New club aims to support underrepresented students in STEM

Underrepresented Students in STEM (USS) started at AU this fall

New club aims to support underrepresented students in STEM

Jorge Goyco Diaz and Juliana Delgado, the vice president and president of Underrepresented Students in STEM (USS), at the Student Involvement Fair in September. 

Juliana Delgado, a senior biology major, thinks AU does a great job of providing opportunities for STEM students. The problem, she said, is that students don’t know about them.

That’s one of the issues Delgado hopes to solve with Underrepresented Students in STEM (USS), a new club on campus that aims to support students in educational environments and the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce through mentorship and guidance to its members.

Additionally, the club will focus on providing financial support to underrepresented students who wish to continue a STEM education. Delgado co-founded USS with her academic mentor and professor Meg Bentley.

“A lot of times underrepresented students already feel limited in the STEM field, so we want to provide them with that extra push,” Delgado said.

Delgado and Bentley said it was important to understand that underrepresentation in STEM includes people of color, women, veterans and disabled people.

Within the University, Delgado and Bentley noted, any student in STEM is underrepresented academically on campus due to the high concentration of students in the School of International Service and School of Public Affairs. SIS boasted 1,867 undergraduate students in 2017-2018, while SPA had 1,521 students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, according to AU’s 2017-2018 academic data reference book. About 713 students in the College of Arts and Sciences were pursuing a degree in the STEM field in the same year.

Bentley said AU has put a large focus on expanding representation of diverse faculty members, which is beneficial to the mission of USS as it helps empower underrepresented students.

Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office are asking for a STEM audit, Bentley added. This audit would determine how many members of the STEM faculty at AU are part of underrepresented groups, Bentley said.

“We have underrepresented STEM faculty, but we can always do better,” Bentley said.

Delgado said that 99 percent of USS members are currently underrepresented in some way in the STEM field. This is in part because USS uses a broad range of factors to define the term underrepresented, including but not limited to: age, disability, sexual orientation, culture, geography, experience and thinking style.

USS hopes to start a scholarship fund through donations in order to financially support its members. The DC NASA Space Grant Consortium, which is based here at AU, is just one organization that USS hopes they can work with to create a scholarship fund, Delgado said.

Although underrepresentation is the focus of the club, it is not a requirement to join, Delgado said.

“If we can get any student, represented or underrepresented, supporting other STEM students, I think we’ve done a job well done,” Delgado said.

eseymour@theeagleonline.com


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