Just in time for Pride month this June, the Drexel University chapter of oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) received recognition as an official Drexel student organization, and has also been recognized as an official chapter by oSTEM Incorporated, a national society “dedicated to educating and fostering leadership for LGBTQA communities in the STEM fields.”
The organization’s timely recognition took nearly two years of planning and preparation by its Executive Committee members: Charlie Chiccarine (BS computer science, ‘22), Amanda Hipple-Bornhorn (BS electrical engineering, ‘22), Ezra Incorvaia (BS animation & visual effects, ‘23), and Natalie Laborde (BS mechanical engineering technology, ‘22).
“I was originally very isolated when I came to Drexel, being the only LGBT person I knew at the College of Computing & Informatics. I saw these other great initiatives like WiCS [Women in Computing Society] and SWE [Society for Women Engineers] and how successfully they formed a community in STEM for minorities, and I wanted to build something like that for LGBT people,” said Chiccarine.
Upon noticing this hole in Drexel's community, Chiccarine shared the idea in an online LGBT group and connected with Hipple-Bornhorn and Laborde. Incorvaia, who was a student in a class with Chiccarine as a teaching assistant, expressed interest in becoming involved with the group after hearing they were looking for officers.
"Charlie was the one who opened the door for me. I saw the possibilities to help cultivate a community with people of a similar background to me and to help inspire another person. I hope to do just that in oSTEM in the future: I want to help others and be the person I needed a few years ago," said Incorvaia.
The four students had little experience managing an organization, so they worked closely with staff and faculty mentors to navigate the process.
“We had a great support system through CASTLE [Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence] who gave us a meeting space and great resources. Our former mentor, Marisa Dietrich, helped us set up a Constitution and gave us advice on how to be an all-inclusive club,” said Laborde.
Dietrich, who recently took a position at the Fox School of Business & Management, expressed the significance of establishing a club like this on Drexel’s campus.
“I am continually proud of the Drexel oSTEM Executive Committee and its important work to have the organization officially recognized to give a safe place for LGBTQ+ students to flourish at Drexel,” Dietrich said. “It is important for Drexel to celebrate, empower, support and officially recognize LGBTQ+ organizations such as oSTEM, which serve by providing more diverse and inclusive academic, professional, and personal environments for the overall community.”
The group also tapped Associate Professor of Information Science Erjia Yan, PhD to serve as their faculty advisor. “I am delighted to work with the oSTEM officers: they are some of the most driven and talented students that I have ever worked with. I admire and highly appreciate their dedication in making Drexel a welcoming space for LGBTQ students majoring in STEM fields,” Yan said.
Although oSTEM at Drexel only gained official recognition from the University this month, the group organized several events during the past school year, frequently collaborating with the Queer Student Union (QSU). During Drexel’s Pride Week this spring, oSTEM co-hosted a panel on queer professionalism featuring Yan and fellow CCI faculty Ellen Bass, PhD, Professor of Information Science.
Now that the group has received official recognition, its officers plan to continue offering even more opportunities for involvement. “We’re working hard to plan workshops, panels, and fundraisers to jointly benefit oSTEM and local charities, as well as fun social events like arts-and crafts nights. Stay tuned to our social media for event announcements,” said Hipple-Bornhorn.
Learn more about oSTEM at Drexel on their Dragon Link page and follow them on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with their calendar of events in the upcoming academic year.