Social event provides community building & networking for BIPOC students in STEM

Physics and Biology DSC creates safe space for BIPOC students in STEM to connect, free from emotional labour

According to Sarah Douglas, the event filled a gap in the clubs at Queen’s.
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The Physics and Biology Department Student Councils (DSC) held their first social for Queen’s students who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) on Wednesday. 

The event was available exclusively to BIPOC students in STEM because it was meant to be a safe space for making friendships and connecting with peers who have similar experiences. 

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The remote social took place through video-chat platform Zoom with the programming structured to mimic the setting of an in-person event where attendees could mingle and network. 

“We see BIPOC events [that are] focused on racism and race-based discussions—those create perception[s] that we need BIPOC students to do work in terms of dismantling racism,” Jessica Grennan, president of the Physics DSC, said in an interview with The Journal

Sarah Douglas, president of the Biology DSC, added that an event for BIPOC students in these fields is particularly important due to the lack of discussions and mechanisms for STEM students to express themselves in their own courses.

“If things were to happen in the world around us, we are still talking about mathematical equations and chemistry formulas and we are not really bringing those discussions into the classroom setting,” Douglas told The Journal.

Douglas also believes that while classes in the Faculty of Arts and Science have more opportunities for students to express themselves because the topic of racism tends to come up more naturally in discussion, the main discussions in STEM courses are science-oriented. 

READ MORE: ‘I want bystanders to feel like they have the responsibility to speak up’: Queen’s students share experiences of discrimination

“In STEM, we don’t often get a chance to speak about those kinds of issues and I feel like sometimes they are pushed aside or not recognized,” Douglas said.

Regarding barriers BIPOC students in STEM face, Douglas and Grennan both said a consistent problem is the lack of diversity seen in the student body and the faculty at Queen’s—particularly in the sciences. 

According to Douglas, this event also filled an identified gap in the clubs at Queen’s. Though there are many clubs available for BIPOC students to join, there isn’t one catered to BIPOC students specifically in STEM.

Douglas and Grennan plan to have more events for BIPOC students in STEM in the future, including speaker nights promoting the work of BIPOC graduates and speakers in STEM and educational events showcasing how racism affects BIPOC STEM majors and those working in the industry. 

Grennan said upper-lower year mentorship among BIPOC students is a key outcome of the event.

“I was fortunate enough to be connected with a small group of BIPOC upper-year students who became great mentors to me, so it’s really important for [the BIPOC] students around us to see ourselves and to seek someone that we can relate to and look up to as BIPOC students.”

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