#IAMSTEM event celebrates inclusivity and opportunities in science and mathematics

Yesterday, students, faculty and staff gathered in the Cousins Center for Science and Innovation for the #IAMSTEM celebration — the first of many upcoming initiatives aimed at helping Oglethorpe’s young scientists feel included and represented in their respective STEM fields.

The event comes just months after the university received a prestigious inclusive excellence grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which will help OU provide opportunities for all students in the sciences, especially those who have been historically underrepresented.

A student and Oglethorpe professor Dr. John Nardo chat and smile

A student and Oglethorpe mathematics professor Dr. John Nardo work together on STEM bingo

Attendees heard from some of the faculty and staff involved in securing the grant. The event opened with remarks from Oglethorpe’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dr. Laura Renée Chandler and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Kathryn McClymond.

“Diversity — sitting in a room with people who are different than you are means you are going to be confronted with challenges to the way you always see the world,” said Dr. McClymond, “[The HHMI grant] is built on the premise that we all learn better, we all grow, we all think more creatively when we think in a room — or across institutions — with diverse perspectives and diverse identities at the table.”

After, students shared remarks on their involvement in STEM at Oglethorpe and where they have found belonging. Student speakers included Wyatt Franco-Lopez ’24Deicy Vega Puga ’24 and Dania Hernandez Aguilera ’26. Watch the full student testimonials above.

“I didn’t really start feeling like a scientist until I was nominated to be an SI (Student Instructor) my sophomore year by Dr. Roessler [Assistant Professor of Materials Chemistry], and I’m so thankful that she did…” said biology major Franco-Lopez ’24. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to help other students, or if I was going to be good enough, and I think a lot of us feel the same way in different things. So, I think it’s important to get that confidence to try new things.”

In closing, Professor of Biology Dr. Karen Schmeichel announced that students will be invited to participate in summer workshops to help OU faculty identify barriers that students face during their academic journeys in order for faculty to better address their needs.

At the end of the event, students connected with their fellow STEM majors, helped design an “#IAMSTEM” t-shirt and posed for headshots to use on their LinkedIn profiles.

About the Inclusive Excellence Grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Students work together on activities during Oglethorpe HHMI grant that supports inclusivity in STEM.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) named Oglethorpe University as one of the recipients of its third round of inclusive excellence grants Nov. 30, 2022. Part of the Inclusive Excellence 3 program from HHMI, the grant totals $8 million over six years and will go to a Learning Community Cluster (LCC) of 14 institutions, including Oglethorpe. Each of the 14 schools will receive $377,800 directly, and the remaining funds will be used for the collective efforts of the LCC.

The LCC will work to achieve HHMI’s stated purpose of fostering a learning community of college and university faculty and administrators who are engaged in the process of increasing their institution’s capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those who are underrepresented in the sciences. The work of the LCC will focus on improving pedagogical training for STEM faculty, removing barriers in the curricula for STEM students and developing robust peer-peer mentoring programs. Over the next six years Oglethorpe will implement inclusion strategies on campus while participating with the other members of the LCC.

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