EDI: NSBE

 

Story behind NSBE at Queen’s

Geneviève -The dean invited me to speak at the shutdown STEM panel which Thea was also part of and through that experience back in June I had heard of NSBE chapters in other schools and I was thinking of how great it would be to have at Queen’s to foster a community of black engineers and people who understand each other’s experiences. There is an intersectionality of being a black student and in such a demanding program at queen’s, and the representation is so low at queen’s that it had never started. There was a group of students who were interested in starting this group, so we got started in august with the mentorship program and have been running events since September. The ultimate goal is to increase diversity in the incoming classes at queen’s and also foster this community where students can know the other black engineers in their year and in the faculty.

 

Nicholas- Before Thea reached out to me and told me that Geneviève wanted to start the NSBE chapter I had never really even heard of NSBE before and wasn’t really in that realm where black engineers had some sort of organization where we could come and congregate and create a community for ourselves in engineering, which is already such a prominently white space. So yeah, it came about because the already small network of black students at queen’s came together over the summer because of all the traumatic experiences and the death of George Floyd and many other black people we saw happening and because we were roped into having these conversations, and that’s how I kind of got into the project.

 

Thea- The main reason that NSBE came to be was because there was such a lack of network within the community. The fact that Gen and I spoke on the panel back in June wasn’t because we were the most qualified to do it. It was because we were the only ones that the faculty knew and now with our network of now over 20 black engineers, we can find the most qualified person for the job. So, the story behind it really is that this came out of a necessity and it’s something that we don’t think we should’ve had to do but it was something that we ended up having to do in the end.

 

What is one thing you want people to know about NSBE?

Geneviève – We run one event per month, we collaborate with other universities, and we also promote all these events and opportunities on our social media. It’s @NSBE.Queens, and we also have a Facebook.

 

In what ways do clubs like yours help queen’s engineers?

Nicholas- It definitely helps queen’s engineers to focus on creating, I mean it’s really about visibility. One, we’ve created a space for black engineers at Queen’s to see that there are other students like them. And they have a space to access that support for people who look like them, which is something I know I missed a lot in 2016, coming back to Toronto and talking to people and being like “I have no black friends”. That was just kind of like the norm and I had to accept that, but it also provides a space for those outside of Queen’s eng looking in to see that there is a safe space for them. And queen’s engineering is a possibility for them because before, when we didn’t have this network and weren’t so visible, I’m sure black students looking at Queen’s eng were like “this isn’t a place where I could safely study because I don’t see anyone who looks like me and I don’t see any profs who look like me so who could I come to for support?”

Geneviève – I know that for myself, coming to tour queens’ I just didn’t see anyone who looked like me on campus, or even in the group who I was touring with. That was the main thing that was holding me back from choosing queen’s over McMaster and I remember thinking “oh I don’t know if those traditions are going to be for me. I really don’t know If I’m going to feel like I have a sense of community at queen’s.” But now I’m so glad that I chose this school because I’ve been able to feel like the queen’s engineering community is a home, and I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed those traditions. Like, I was a FREC and I think there is a really strong sense of community at queen’s, but I know that so many aren’t that lucky, and they don’t find that group of people that I’ve found, and I wanted this club to foster that and show people that, as nick said, that there are other people that look like them at queen’s. Also, I only knew of 5 black or mixed engineers in my year. That’s less than half a percent of our class. And I have been told by Jaden, who is also a part of our exec, that I was the only other black engineer he knew in 1st year. And that’s in a class of 750 students in 2018. So kind of going off of why I started the club was also because I was part of the Queen’s Black Premedical Association in first year, which from the first meeting, being in a room with people who looked like me, was really great because I’m interested in medicine and I could relate with those people on that level. But, no one else in that group was in engineering and so I definitely saw there was a gap there and not everyone would be interested in joining a premedical association to find people who look like them. Also increasing the diversity of the student cohort is really important especially in engineering we can’t be making decisions for society with a group that lacks diversity itself.

Thea- Honestly, they both said it perfectly this club helps people and engineers by creating a community and making people believe they can be engineers, so I think that’s really hitting home and exactly what we want to do.

 

What would be the goal of your initiatives at the end of the year?

Nicholas- For what I’ve been working on with one of our alumni’s Cole we’ve been working on having that mentorship program started. So in September we were able to reach out to upper year students looking to mentor first year students and create that initial connection. We also want to aim to have one event a month and those events will fall under our three pillars of academic support and professional development and fostering that community so we already had one event in early October and that was about transitioning to first year. That came from a Canadian experience and an international experience and we are planning to have an event at the end of November that is more professional development centered and that’s about bringing different companies together who have employee resource groups and they focus on black diversity. Kind of showcasing that and allowing students to come and ask questions, so kind of like a networking event.

 

Geneviève- yeah so with this being our first year, we are really working on those three pillars of professional development, academic support, and mentorship/community to foster a group of black engineers to be motivated and do great things in queen’s eng.

 

What is one misconception about your initiative?

Nicholas- One misconception is I think because it has the word black in the name that it’s only for black people. Obviously NSBE is a group that is created for black people, run by black people because we wanted to do that and because we needed to do that. Although the initiatives we run are going to be black centered, our first event it was open to everyone, for example. So, unless it’s specified that it’s a black-only space because that’s key to the event, all our initiatives are open to all engineers. Like for example with PD in November, it is a professional development event. It is black centered but it’s still an opportunity to network so it’s a space for people to take part. Our events are for black students and allies.

 

What change would you like to see How can other students help?

Thea- So basically, we want all black engineers to find and feel a sense of community at queen’s. That said, we find it’s not necessarily our job alone to create that sense of community. It’s something that all students can help us with. I think that it’s a community effort and it’s everyone that needs to make the difference. So, we definitely just want everyone to feel included here and I think that taking a look at your actions and seeing how they affect others is a good way to do that and also just being mindful that not everyone’s perspective and experience is the same is a great way to help us achieve our goal.

 

Geneviève – I really think the queen’s black academic society is a great resource for action tools and that’s who is kind of leading this and I think they are doing a really good job. We are more so geared toward engineering students and fostering that sense of community.

 

Nicholas- If you want to help give to black organizations speak up if you see something that is anti-black. It’s about having these conversations and being able to have uncomfortable conversations. I think that’s something we’ve missed at queen’s. Like, this level of normalcy that we don’t talk about race, especially in engineering, even though it’s such a white space. Marginalized students are so oppressed here but we’ve been ok with not discussing that so I think that if you want to help our organization as a student, start being more vocal about these things on campus.

 

What would you like to see the engineering faculty of queens do to help?

Geneviève – We are actively consulting with the dean and other faculty on other initiatives. Nick myself and some other engineers are on a task force and we meet with the dean. We are really excited about the work that’s being done there and really excited to continue it.

EDI: Robogals

This week we interviewed Robogals and found out some more about this amazing club part of Engsoc! Definitely watch the highlights video below and the full interview can also be found below!

Story behind Robogals at queens

Robogals started in Australia by a university student and then it took off in Australia and spread all over the world into different universities, where people had the same concerns that there wasn’t enough female participation in STEM. It started out in Queen’s in 2013. Occasionally we have meetings with people from the whole world to talk about how they have done workshops, what they do, and how we can learn from each other from each other. I started getting involved in 2017 while I was in second year, so I’ve been with it for three years and I’m the president this year!

 

How did you get into it

I am in engineering and in my first year we had 30% female in our class. Looking back at when my dad did engineering, there was only one female. So, it has increased quite a bit since then but it’s still not equal and I think it is just because a lot of girls don’t’ learn about it at a young age. I know I personally didn’t. When I heard about Robogals and how they were teaching young girls about engineering, what it is and what you can do with it , I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I was thinking that that would’ve been amazing to have when I was younger. Nothing was really like that at my school or offered to me so I thought it was an awesome opportunity to try and offer it to kids now who maybe were like me and interested in engineering but just not aware of it.

 

What is one thing you want people to know about Robogals?

We have taught some really young kids, from starting at ages 6 and 7, and they actually can pick it on basic programming super quickly! I think it’s something that should be taught to more younger kids because it’s seen as a complicated thing but we teach so many young kids and they pick it up so quickly and usually by the end of workshops they are so much better at the things we are teaching than I am. Yeah I mean that’s just in general I think don’t be afraid to teach young kids things that are too complicated because they can pick up on thins pretty quickly.

 

In what ways do clubs like yours help queen’s engineers

It’s definitely more aimed at helping the community than our specific engineers because we have workshops all throughout the community. We have been to a lot of elementary schools and we host full day events on campus where kids can come and spend their whole day at Queen’s. But as well, the volunteers also gained a lot of experience. We benefit and learn from teaching kids as well. So it’s a good experience for both the kids and the volunteers. As well, while hiring for our executive team this year, one of the interviewees mentioned to me is that she experienced something similar to Robogals while she was younger and that’s why she wanted to go into engineering. To me, knowing that these programs actually do make a difference in kid’s lives and seeing real life examples of how Robogals can influence girls to go into engineer is really special. It has starter to create a cycle of the kids we teach becoming university students and passing on their experience to other young kids.

What does Robogals mean to you?

For me it’s been a really rewarding extracurricular that I have been involved with. There are a lot of things that you can get involved with in Queen’s, and I find this one in particular is quite meaningful to me because I am a female in engineering. I see the gender divide and have experienced it first hand. I have never felt that I have not been treated fairly for being a female in engineering, but when I think about it, most of my friend group is all males and so it is noticeable to me. I think the ultimate goal is to get it to be 50/50 and make sure girls realize that they can be engineers. For me, I was lucky to have my dad to tell me all about engineering, but not everyone has that. I think it is important for me to teach other girls that they can be engineers!

 

What would be the goal of your initiatives at the end of the year?

This year is super different with Covid, so we are working hard to adjust to that. We are transforming everything we are doing to a virtual online setting. We have a YouTube channel that just starting up with some online workshops that kids can watch on their own and then we are also trying to organize virtual workshops. It’s kind of an experimental year because this is something we have never done before. Our goal is to have as many kids as we’d normally have participate in our live workshops. It’s going to be a  tough challenge but we are going to try our best!

Check out their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJxibkVd9UKQBAPmFCey-WA/featured?view_as=subscriber

 

What is one misconception about your initiative?

We are an inclusive club, so we do not turn anyone away if they want to get involved and learn about robotics. Our workshops include anyone who wants to participate! It’s very common to have girls who have brothers who also want to participate, and we welcome everyone. It is called Robogals and the goal is increase female participation in STEM, but as well just introducing engineering to all kids.  So, I guess that could be a misconception.

 

What change would you like to see How can other students help?

It’s weird this year just because we are still trying to figure our lives out. But In the past, we did lack some volunteer participation. We have our own executive team but it’s always good for our workshops to have more volunteers. The nice thing about volunteering with us is that there is very little commitment. We will tell you when we have workshops booked and you can sign up for however many workshops you want. More help from other students would be awesome!

 

What would you like to see the engineering faculty of queens do to help?

I think just getting all the information out to other schools and community would be a great help! I’m sure the faculty has relationships with lots high schools and elementary school, so I think that could be helpful for us. Our goal is to help as many kids as possible and it’s a limitation based on the number of contacts we have with schools right now so having extra contact with schools would increase our participation.

 

 

EDI: WISE

This week, we talked to WISE about their amazing initiative at Queen’s. For those who don’t know, WISE is a chapter of the National Women in Science and Engineering Organization. A lot of universities across Canada have a WISE chapter at their university, and Queen’s chapter has been around for 30 years.

The full interview can be read below and make sure to checkout the interview highlights video as well!

How did you get into WISE?

Nicole-

My story is a little bit different than Amy and Lisa’s but I got into WISE last year when I applied to be the Dinner with Industry coordinator. Basically, I planned the event Dinner with Industry, but what made me want to get into it and, I’m sure, as with all of us, it’s sort of the same reason where we were in situations where we realized we were the only women in the room. Sometimes that can be really stressful, and you almost want to be a part of a community where people feel the same way and have gone through the same experiences. My friend was actually the one who encouraged me to join, because she was a first-year intern for WISE when she was in her first year. So she encouraged me to join and told me about all the mentorship opportunities and the community you form within the club itself. I was like- yeah that’s definitely something I want. Just a group of strong empowered women.

 

Amy-

I joined WISE in my first year. I was looking for something where I could meet new people but still be surrounded by people who had similar interests as me. In high school I had been working with my school’s robotics team, which was really fun for me to be involved in STEM outreach and work with the community and my peers. I was looking for something where I could continue in that sort of environment and WISE seemed like the perfect fit. So, I started volunteering in my first year. Did that again in my second year and then the past two years I’ve been on the executive team, which has been an experience in itself. Just getting to know the girls on a new level and still getting to have that community outreach and team bonding. It’s just been amazing to meet so many women from diverse STEM backgrounds and not even just STEM, just diverse backgrounds in general. It’s been so fun and I’m so happy and grateful to be a part of the team.

 

Lisa-

I started volunteering with WISE when I was in first year. I was a coordinator in my second and third year and then this year I’m honored to be the president. And a little bit of background about me; I went to an all-girls school in Toronto, so I grew up in an environment where I had a lot of female role models, mentors, and teachers to look up to. When I got to university, I realized that that hadn’t been the experience for a lot of the girls that were in my classes. They were a little bit more timid and wouldn’t speak up in tutorials- even though they knew the right answers. I could see it on the page beside them and they wouldn’t raise their hand and say the answer. That’s what kind of sparked my interest in WiSE because I realized that we do need this kind of supportive environment and club on campus. I’m so happy to have been a part of it in my four years here.

 

What is one thing you want people to know about WISE?

Amy-

I think Lisa will probably reiterate this, but WISE is not just for science and engineering, it is for anybody really. STEM is such a broad field, but it often gets pegged down to just those four; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, which kind of already have these connotations associated with them. But I think something that we’ve kind of come to realize during our time at WISE – all three of us – is that STEM is so broad, and it is for pretty much anybody. Anybody who wants to further our mission of empowering women and gender minorities in STEM and other fields, we’re happy to have you. So, I think that’s something that is really important for people to know about WISE.

 

Lisa-

Yeah Amy stole my point. I’m always a big advocate for anyone who is anywhere where there is underrepresentation. So, I’m in global development, Amy is in environmental geology, Nicole is in computer engineering, and so you can be from any background and in any year. Also, it’s never too late to get involved. Even if you’re in fourth year and want to be a volunteer we’re happy to have you. I think one part about queen’s clubs that I’ve found really challenging over the years is that every position needs an application, every club needs two rounds of interviews and even then you still may not get a position on the executive team of a club. But anyone’s welcome in our mentorship program and anyone’s welcome as a volunteer. I would just say if you have any questions or want to get involved just reach out to me at wise@nullengsoc.queensu.ca. It’s all over our website and I’ll let you know what’s up and how you can get involved.

 

Nicole-

I just want to add one thing. I know we briefly talked about it but another thing I want people to know about WISE is I know that it’s Women In Science and Engineering but, really we are for any gender minority and increasing any sort of representation. No matter what you identify as, you can join our club. It’s just about the mission and it’s about increasing that underrepresentation. We don’t gate keep based on gender and we don’t gate keep based on what program you’re in. it’s just really a community that is moving towards the same mission. And touching on Lisa’s point, I think that’s something that really differentiates WISE; even though we are technically an executive team it does really feel like a community. And I know I am super biased in saying that, because we are part of it but, it really does feel like a community. Especially when it’s such a sensitive but empowering mission. I think that’s what really helps bring us together.

 

In what ways do clubs like yours help queen’s engineers?

Lisa-

I’ll kick it off. I’ll plug our podcast which we really are ramping up this year. Our first episode is going to be posted on October 2nd. Even though we can’t be on campus and a lot of people are studying from home, or going back and forth between Kingston and home. You can still listen in to all of the episodes. They are all interviews with students at queens, industry professionals, or professors and they are very advice based and empowering, in my own opinion. So even if you’re not on campus, you can still be a part of WISE and get a flavor that way, listening from anywhere in the world.

We also have two annual networking events and several professional development workshops throughout the year so be on the lookout for those. In the first semester, our networking event, brunch with industry, is going to be online and free of charge. It’s going to be a series of videos posted to a website of women recounting their experiences of working in these unprecedented times.

 

Nicole-

Another part of our programs that I will also plug is our mentorship program. Our mentorship program is incredible for helping Queen’s students develop personal and professional connections. Our mentorship program is quite unique in that you can sign up as a mentor or a mentee. So, you can be a mentor for a high school student or you can be a mentee to an upper year student or a graduate student or an alumni in industry. It’s really very tailored to whatever you like and whatever you see your path as, but we’ve constantly gotten amazing feedback from the program. A lot of people have come out of it with lifelong connections with their mentors. And so, it just really helps students sort of figure out the whole being an adult, in terms of networking and developing those professional connections- so networking in a safe space and just really ramping that up. But more than that it just helps them connect with female role models and any gender minority role model they can see themselves as in the future. It gives them something to work towards and understand more about.

 

What does WISE mean to you?

Lisa-

I think one of the most rewarding parts of WISE for me is seeing other girls on my executive team take responsibility in their own positions. And I’ve been on it for a couple of years now. So, to see someone like Amy progress from a volunteer, to a director, to a VP is really rewarding. I enjoy that process of seeing the growth of the girls and all the people that are on our executive team.

 

Amy-

I think what Lisa was saying about seeing the progression I can definitely relate to, especially seeing it in myself. Having gone through multiple stages of being a part of WISE has been really cool. It’s really just felt more and more like a community as I’ve been a part of the club longer and longer. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my experience at Queen’s so far. Going into my fourth year, it’s something I can reflect back on as being something consistent and something that I’ve been excited to do every year. So, I think that giving me that sense of consistency and that sense of community has been very impactful on my experience at Queen’s. I’ll definitely carry it with me going forward and moving into new teams. I can reflect on lessons that I’ve learned from past presidents, past co-volunteers, past directors, and XYZ. I think the community aspect is the most important thing to me about WISE.

 

Nicole-

Just to piggyback off of that a little bit. I think my favorite part about WISE is the collaboration and how welcoming it is. Last year was my first year on the club and it honestly felt like I had known everyone for years. That’s how welcoming it was. And even though I didn’t fully understand how every piece of WISE worked- and there are so many moving parts to the organization. But no one ever looked down on me for that. It didn’t stop me from doing anything because now I’m the internal vice president. It’s very welcoming. There are really no biases against you when you join or anything like that. Everyone is genuinely there to help each other up in any way. Whether that’s with WISE, with personal problems, or with school. That is genuinely what I’ve found.

 

What would be the goal of your initiatives at the end of the year?

Lisa-

I think a lot of clubs and organizations this year are facing challenges of online events and attendance and adapting their programs to virtual platforms. I think I would be proud if we ran all of our outreach programs to the best of our abilities. Because one of the biggest branches of WISE is our outreach programs where we connect with elementary school and high school students in the Kingston community and organize days where they can do a series of science and engineering experiments. If we can run those to any extent, I would be very happy.

 

Nicole-

Yeah, I just wanted to add that especially since everything is online it can be daunting to seek out opportunities either for professional or personal endeavors. And a lot of our workshops and networking events sort of work to alleviate that pain and how daunting that is. I would honestly be very happy if we had the same numbers of attendees as we did in previous years. But it’s not just about the people that attend or the number of people it’s whether people actually learn something from it and take away from the stories of the speakers and are actually able to network with companies and med students and all things like that. So at the end of the day it’s very vague so if every person who attends our events leaves with a better understanding of what they want to pursue in stem or whatever that is and feel empowered to do so. Then I feel like we would’ve done our job.

Amy-

Yeah, I totally agree again with what both Nicole and Lisa have said. Our outreach programs are progressing, and I know this year we’ve had some roadblocks with programs we’ve run at the schools because obviously teachers are juggling these new classroom formats- and we don’t want to place any burden on them even if they’ve kind of been struggling. So that’s definitely something we are working around, but fingers crossed that things will be able to go forward because we’ve received such positive feedback from the girls that we’ve worked with in the past and it’s so rewarding to see them gain something from our programs. So hopefully those will be able to continue in whatever capacity we can. Also, I think that similar to what Nicole was saying about having people walk away feeling fulfilled with our events and programs is all that we can ask for. if somebody is able to make one connection or network with one professor or industry professional that’s more than enough for us. And I think it’s also important to make sure that our team is feeling like the work that they’ve been putting in is kind of being followed through with and that they see some sort of result from the hours that they’ve been putting in. So, just a combination of the things that Lisa and Nicole were saying is definitely something that I hope for  our team, and I’m confident that our team will be able to accomplish it this year.

 

What is one misconception about your initiative?

Nicole-

I think the biggest thing for me is not just about gate keeping STEM but you don’t necessarily need to identify as female to be a part of our team -or to volunteer with us anything like that. We would love to see people who don’t identify as female or any other gender minorities join our exec. Because if you have an adjacent mission that sort of coincides with ours, we would love to collaborate with you and we could always use more diversity of thought.

 

Lisa-

Kind of piggy backing off of Nicole’s point, we open our outreach to all students in the Kingston community a lot of the time. So, there could be elementary school girls and boys coming to our events. So, while it is very important and close to my heart to empower women and gender minorities, we also have to create an environment where everyone is working together because in the, quote on quote “real world”, you’re going to be exposed to different groups of people. You’re going to be working with very diverse teams so that’s something that I’d like to bring on to our executive team and more of our initiatives in the coming years.

 

What change would you like to see How can other students help?

Amy-

I’m thinking it would just be great to have students break down their own misconceptions about what our organization does. I think we really emphasize that we want to include pretty much everybody in our organization and our mission. If students want to encourage male identifying students to participate in something like brunch with industry, that would be great. Working together, as a body, to increase representation in STEM and other fields I think that would definitely be something that students can work towards.

 

Lisa-

In global development and biology there are a lot of female identifying people so in my own classes and tutorials I haven’t been put in too many positions where I’m the only female in the room. Maybe Nicole can speak to this but I think small changes start in very informal conversations with your friends, at parties, in your classes, in your tutorials. If you hear someone saying something that just doesn’t sit right with you, you don’t even have to have this big ideological conversation about it you can just flag it and say “that’s not cool” or if someone is making a point and someone else is talking over them you can say “hey Nicole what was that you were saying?” Just these little ways to call in minorities to the conversation. Bring their thoughts to the forefront even though it is daunting especially if you’re at a party or in a non-academic setting it can be scary to bring that up. But I think that is the biggest way that students can make small changes in their own friends’ minds. Your parents as well. These conversations start at home, at the dinner table, so that would be my biggest piece of advice.

 

Nicole-

Mine is a bit similar. First of all, as a woman in computer engineering I definitely relate to being the only girl in the room or that sort of deal. It is a very stereotypical stem field I feel and the change I would like to see is more allies. Being an ally doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hang this huge flag all the time or anything like that. Like Lisa said it’s the little things, it’s sitting there in that discomfort with the other person and being able to validate and or defend them. And going away from that I would really like to see more gender representation within these very male dominated fields and how other students can help would be joining other EDI initiatives. That really is it, that’s how I see us making progress. Because If someone is in, let’s say first year engineering, as an example. First year engineering it’s general and you don’t know what stream you’re going to pick or which you’re going to major in. It can be really easy to shy away from the male dominated field. I was pretty scared to pick computer engineering because I was like, am I going to be the only girl? But when you see other women, other gender minorities, Or people who look like you, having done it before you it makes it a lot easier because you’re like well they did so I can do it too. Even though we all knew that you could do it and we are always rooting for everyone, but it makes it easier to take that first step.

 

What would you like to see the engineering faculty of queens do to help?

Nicole-

I know that this is something that is too idealistic or too farfetched but it really does help in my experience to have more female professors. Like someone who looks like you at the end of the room it makes a world of a difference and some of the most amazing professors I’ve had; for example: Karen Rudie, I’m not sure if you’ve had her as a professor, absolutely incredible and she is such a power house of a women and  is really just such a great role model that it’s great to see someone that looks like you at the front of the room basically. And so I understand that that’s a very long process and you don’t exactly just go out and hire a prof and anything like that. I know a lot of them are working through the ranks and a lot of it just has to do with going from associate professor to professor but just seeing more female representation within the staff would definitely help a lot.

 

Lisa-

Going off of that point, this would be a collaboration between the DSC’s and the faculty but every DSC that I’ve ever seen holds some sort of “drinks with professors” event or “wine and cheese nights” and we should continue to have those of course but I think it’d be very helpful to have one that was only for female professors and female identifying students because, like Nicole said, there is not very many female professors and it can be daunting to approach your professor after class or in office hours. So, to have that kind of informal environment that is an opportunity to connect other like-minded professors and students, I think that’d be very helpful. Another thing too, queen’s runs a lot of trainings, like positive space training that I think should be mandatory for all students, especially first year students. I do positive space training every year, it’s only two hours and I always walk away with something new so I think that’s something that the faculty could implement.

 

Amy-

I think something like what Lisa was saying, to have faculty implement these mandatory trainings or different things like that could be very beneficial and often I feel like when it comes to things like EDI it comes to a lot of talk and a lot of show, so I feel like it would be very beneficial to have a little bit more follow through on something as seemingly simple as implementing a mandatory training, that as Lisa said could be only a two hour session. Maybe something like that could be an action we see the faculty starting to make better strides towards. That’s kind of the only thing I can think of that would be a concrete action on behalf of the faculty. That when they commit to something verbally, they follow through with the actions to back it up. And that’s a lot easier said than done, especially coming from us as an organization where that’s something that we’re definitely trying to work on. As well as making sure we are staying true to the things that we say we are going to do. So, I’m really hoping that moving forward that the faculty will be able to make those types of commitments as well.

 

Nicole-

And just to build on Amy’s point in establishing any policies or any training or anything concrete within the structure of the faculty of engineering. I want to stress that it shouldn’t be built or put in place as a result of just feedback from marginalized groups. It should not be based on marginalized individuals educating others based on reliving their own trauma and having to talk about their own experiences. There are so many resources out there and it is possible to educate yourself on how to be an ally and then learn how to put those policies in place.

 

How can Engsoc help?

Lisa-

This year, Alex who is the VPSA, she’s been working with a team of lovely people to put together the gender in engineering program. Nicole and I were on a meeting with her and  I think one of the best things that she and her team did was highlight the differences between that gender in engineering panel, WISE, and QWASE, which are all organizations ratified under Engsoc to promote diversity in male dominated fields so I think bringing together groups with similar missions is something that Engsoc has started to do and can continue to do to just make sure that our programs don’t overlap too too much and that we are working towards the same goals. We can share speakers or co-host events and pool our resources and get our combined mission out to the masses.

 

Amy-

I’m honestly not too familiar with the work that EngSoc does. My only experience has been through being a member of  a club like wise. I don’t think I’m qualified to speak on the types of things that Engsoc could do because I’m not really familiar with the work that Engsoc has done already, but I can only speak on what Lisa has said I think that combining groups or creating a general pool of knowledge and resources would be very beneficial for us to have a community between each other and foster open communication between engineering society and the clubs that are working under it. I think that would be really beneficial.

 

Nicole-

Honestly from what I’ve seen from Engsoc’s training practices and the way that they promote their clubs, I’ve never really had an issue with it. I have always thought that their training practices and how they govern their hiring was always very strict and for good reason. It has always been very laid out and always follows a process, so it’s always been a very fair process and I think that’s the biggest thing with all student governments and I really do like that and building off of Lisa’s point. Yes, keep pushing these EDI initiatives and giving them a mic and shining a spotlight on them because we definitely need to learn more about them and we have a lot to learn, everyone does. And there is a lot of synergies between these clubs too and they can help each other out and I think this year Engsoc has been doing a really good job of providing a platform for that and a space for that to all happen.

 

Lisa-

I also think Julia Newcombe’s initiative is going to help in the coming years. She’s putting together an anti-oppression anti-discrimination training that could potentially be rolled out to all service staff, clubs, and exec for Engsoc. So hopefully she had a lot of responses to her emails.

EDI: QAISES

This week we interviewed QAISES – Queen’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Check out our video showcasing the interview’s highlights as well as the full interview written down below!


Story behind QAISES at Queen’s

QAISES originated from AISES, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, which is an American nonprofit meant to bring together Indigenous people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). They mainly achieve this by hosting national conferences and leadership summits. Although this year will be online due to the pandemic, it’s usually an in-person conference somewhere in the USA. Companies that are looking for Indigenous students either for internships or fulltime jobs attend, and high school students are also invited. The conference is all about bringing together people who are not always recognized in STEM so they can share their experiences and stories with one another. At Queen’s we started a chapter in line with that. Each year, we attend the Canadian conference that happens in February or March. And this year, like I said, it’s going to be virtual. But it’s all about connecting indigenous students in STEM and giving them a voice.

 

What does the conference generally look like?

The one I went to last year was in Milwaukee in a big conference center. They had keynote speakers who spoke about their research in environmental science, mechanical engineering, and so on. There were different workshops on subjects such as organization, how to build successful chapters at your institutions, and how to build a resume. They held a club fair where you can join a bunch of clubs that span across North America. As well, big companies would attend like Boeing and Microsoft who would come and look for Indigenous students. The conference really helps people wanting to network and make connections since it’s often been really hard for Indigenous students to have that opportunity. There was probably 1000 people at the conference, mainly students coming from different universities, sharing what they do at their institutions. Since I’m the Canadian senior rep, I talk about what Queen’s does and the input I have from other universities in Canada.

 

How did you get into it (What made you want to fight for this cause)?

When I was deciding on where to go to university, it was between here and UBC. But Queen’s was the only university I knew of that offered a program such as Queens’ Aboriginal Access to Engineering, where it just focuses on supporting Indigenous students in engineering. Especially being away from home for the first time and everything being so new, getting this sense of familiarity was important. I knew that if I needed support, I’d automatically have that if need be. So that’s the kind of thing that drew me to it. From there, I got involved in QAISES and have been a part of the club since.

 

What does the support look like?

So at Queen’s, they offer tutoring if I or any Indigenous students need it. There is also the Four Directions Indigenous Student Center where I can go for support and have a spiritual or cultural connection. The reason why I got into QAISES specifically was through their biweekly dinners. They would order a bunch of food for all the students, which also helped bring together students in Queen’s Eng. Of course, as a university student in first year, I’d see free food and I’d do anything to get away from the dining hall. They held their QAISES meeting after dinner and I was kind of just in the background, listening about how you can go to conferences to connect with different types of companies, hear from other indigenous people in the STEM field, help your resume, and discover different types of research opportunities. I was really interested and became a member soon after.

 

What is one thing you want people to know about QAISES?

I think the biggest thing is really just the community and personal connections you get. QAISES is different in that it has almost a family atmosphere since we all have the immediate connection of being in engineering and being a part of the aboriginal access to engineering program. It doesn’t matter the kind of day you’ve had; you can always talk to one of the other Queen’s students in the program and they are there for you. So, in addition to everything that Queen’s and engineering has to offer it’s just another layer of family.

 

In what ways do clubs like yours help Queen’s engineers?

I think it provides a different perspective in a sense. I think the more perspectives and various experiences from other people contribute to a better community and a more diverse environment.

 

What does QAISES mean to you?

I would say that it provides another layer of comfort since you know there is someone there for you that understands certain types of things. I mean, in first year, there is a big academic and social adjustment. You’re meeting different types of people, taking different courses, you’re away from home and everything is new. So in my first year, why I’ve really stuck with it is because of the immediate kind of foundation and comfort that QAISES provides, it’s familiar.  It’s not something that you need to try to get into, it’s always there for you. I had my friends and all these different sorts of things, but especially in my first and second year with QAISES its important because it always provides people with a familiar comfort that they can go to at the end of the day.

 

What would be the goal of your initiatives at the end of the year? 

As I’ve said the biggest thing about AISES are the conferences. Queen’s had six or seven kids go to Saskatchewan for the Canadian conference, but this year it’s going to be virtual. Usually we would have some sort of outreach in QAISES so we’d go to local high schools and elementary schools and show young indigenous students that engineering is a career worth pursuing. Going to science fairs is another thing that people in the club have done in the past, as well as judging those science fairs in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, to excite kids about engineering. So those two are kind of the major things. In regards to this year, it’ll be difficult because it is virtual but I would say trying to do a variation of both of things as best as we can is the goal.

 

What is one misconception about your initiative? 

Misconception. Hmmm. I guess that AISES is not just a Queen’s thing. If that’s one. UBC has a chapter, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba so there are a bunch throughout Canada, though it’s obviously bigger in the USA. Although AISES is an American organization, there are a bunch of different chapters and clubs in Canada geared towards indigenous students in STEM and the undergraduate and graduate level so it’s not just Queen’s.

 

What change would you like to see? How can other students help? 

Generally, things that have happened in the past, over the last year. Between what happened at Chown Hall, the racist and inappropriate comments towards the indigenous community, and flags being torn down, these actions don’t represent what Queen’s is really about. Queen’s has taken a lot of steps, especially for Indigenous students which is great and it’s important. But it’s just about continuing to show respect for one another. At the end of the day, all of us are just people, human, students, and we go through the highs and lows of everyday life. We are all here to get an education and meet different great people from all over the world. Every day I get to meet someone new and learn something new and that’s what we are here for. So, just having that in the back of your mind, it’s all about respect. Queen’s is a family and a community and everyone should be treated with the utmost respect and be uplifted rather than torn down.

 

What would you like to see the engineering faculty of queens do to help?

The dean has been great. He’s been really supportive. He’s told us to reach out for any reason, especially first year and second year students just because of what’s recently happened. In regard to the faculty, I think it’s important to continue having conversations about how meaningful it is that Queen’s has one of the largest, if not the largest, amount of indigenous engineering students in Canada, and what they contribute to Queen’s engineering as a whole. And like I said before, it’s great to have a bunch of different students with different perspectives and that is what Queen’s has done exceptionally well. Having undergraduate students who are indigenous, so I guess continuing to have a conversation about how important and meaningful it is to have these students in the program.

 

How can EngSoc help?

I think increasing awareness of the Four Directions center would help. Creating more awareness about it and the services it offers students, even if they aren’t indigenous, even if they just want to learn what it’s about, would be great. Just so they know that there is a place on campus for this. What Queen’s has done for indigenous engineering is something that should definitely be applauded and recognized, and hopefully it continues to improve.

EDI: Q-WASE

This week for our EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) campaign, we put a spotlight on Q-WASE (Queen’s Women in Applied Science and Engineering), a new conference that aims to explore and challenge gender disparity in engineering. Thank you so much to Kathy Sheng- the marketing and events coordinator of Q-WASE for the insightful interview!

Scroll down to read the full interview and learn more about Q-WASE!


What is the story behind Q-WASE at Queen’s?

I can’t speak for Del and Gab, the ones who started Q-WASE, but I can answer this from a marketing and an events coordinator perspective. This is our first year of Q-WASE and it is the faculty’s first and only non-technical conference. What we aim to do is look at the gender disparity in engineering which is obviously present in our educational institutions and in the workplace once we graduate. We want to have a place to discuss this and look at it through an intersectional lens. We just hope we can empower women in engineering and inspire Queen’s students to challenge the status quo and learn of constructive ways we can solve this problem by not staying stagnant with this gender inequality that we have right now.

 

What will Q-WASE look like?

Everything is up in the air because of COVID-19- obviously. For now, it seems like we can have our conference in person. I’m not certain about what the setup is going to be like. It’s definitely going to be socially distant, which will be interesting. I’m sure that our logistics coordinators have some creative things planned to navigate that situation. It is going to be in second semester so it will hopefully be in person. If it ends up needing to be virtual, I think it would still be super cool. A) it would allow for cheaper ticket prices and B) we could have a bunch of cool speakers- maybe even more, and it’d be more of a zoom session type of thing.

 

How did you get into it and what made u want to fight for this cause?

Diversity in engineering and at Queen’s has always been really important to me. When I was choosing universities, it was definitely a major factor I considered. Right now, I’m on internship and it’s definitely something that I try to be a part of in my company. We have women in engineering groups and women in STEM groups that I try to join. My team at work is also a group of great female engineers, which has changed my internship experience so far for the better. In general, I’ve always seen the importance in advocating for diversity and gender inclusivity- everyone should be able to feel welcome in their workplace and community.

 

What is one thing you want people to know about QWASE?

Lately I’ve been listening to a bunch of podcasts and reading books- because of quarantine. I’ve been reading a lot from inspirational women and one thing I’ve noticed is that throughout their journey to success, they’ve owed it a lot to the support systems they’ve had and the people that they’ve had in their lives. They couldn’t have gotten to where they were by doing everything on their own.

So, for Q-WASE I want people to know that if they are looking for support, looking for a mentor, if they want to find career support, or just in general, I think Q-WASE is a great positive space for people to talk about how they can push past gender inequality in the industry and, how they can be successful, and resilient, and strong despite anything that might be in their way. I think that if anyone sees that there is a need for change, Q-WASE is a great place to meet others who are also willing to take action and make the change.

 

In what ways do clubs like yours help Queen’s engineers?

Obviously, there is an issue with inclusion, with diversity, and equity hence this whole campaign-which is amazing. I think conferences, clubs, and events like ours just help empower students and helps bring the issues that are at hand, forward. Hopefully it motivates other students to take action and perpetuates more of these initiatives which will end up bringing more diversity in Queen’s engineering.  I think it also helps students realize that there is a huge support system there for them, if they need it. I think when you bring people together it allows for bigger change to happen.

 

What does Q-WASE mean to you?

I think women in engineering (or any field) are resilient and adaptable. I think they can be assertive and play on the exact same field as their male counterparts. Q-WASE is a great place for females to support and inspire one another and also for them to hear from industry leaders and people who have really been able to make a name for themselves in the field and find success, despite any roadblocks they might have faced along the way. I think that these are always good things to hear when you are a university student and kind of unsure of everything. So for me, Q-WASE is a reminder of all the incredible things that women in eng can accomplish.

 

What would be the goal of your initiatives at the end of the year?

For me, personally, as marketing and events: my major goal is to get our name out there and create some buzz about our event because the conference has never existed before. I hope students will get to understand and resonate with our message see it as something they want to take part in. This (gender disparity in engineering) is evidently an issue, and as the future members of the industry, this is definitely a thing we want to create some change in. 

 

What is one misconception about your initiative?

I think the major misconception is that this is only a female only event which it obviously isn’t. In order for actual change to be made I think that everybody needs to be in support of this. No matter your background or gender identity, we hope for you to join us at our conference. I would like to see a more diverse group attending Q-WASE, so even if you aren’t a woman in eng, you can show up to learn how to be a better ally and an advocate for diversity in the industry. Q-WASE is open to absolutely everyone and we hope anyone feels welcome to come.

 

What change would you like to see and how can other students help?

In general, I think that Queen’s students are pretty good at taking action and creating their own initiatives for problems that they see. But I still think a lot of people see an issue and stay stagnant. It’s important not be silent or just accept the status quo. If students see an issue, they could seek others who also see it and hopefully join together to create even a small step to change. I think there is definitely a lot of opportunity for new clubs, conferences, initiatives to be created and there is a lot of smart and creative people at Queen’s. I hope students feel empowered to take action, if they have an idea no matter how big or small- it is capable of making a huge change.

 

What would you like to see the Engineering Faculty of Queen’s do to help?

I think there is a lot that the faculty can do right now, to be more supportive of equality, diversity, and inclusion in engineering. An example would be to talk to faculty members and professors and see which professors are willing to start some kind of diversity initiative and be a bit more vocal on offering their support to students. Something that I hear from my peers and friends who are women in the faculty is how they struggle to feel supported by some of their professors. Of course, I also hear the opposite, and have had professors myself who have become role models to me. Another thing would be the admissions process. I think there could be a greater focus on gender equality there. For example; when students come and tour the ILC we could get students to volunteer and give a talk on their experiences with diversity and inclusion in the faculty. There should be more information about support systems available for underrepresented students and make it an easier transition for these perspective students.

 

How can EngSoc help?

I think Engsoc is doing some great things, especially with this campaign. I’m looking at things through a marketing lens, but I think Engsoc can really help with spreading the word about the student initiatives going on right now. Providing the opportunity to have student groups get their name out there and helping out folks who are trying to make a change but don’t know how to get traction. I think EngSoc could reach out and provide support to these people and be like “Hey, we will help you get your name out there”, especially for smaller initiatives that are just starting out. Since Engsoc is such an established and well-known group, they have the power to bring smaller groups together who have similar goals and allow them to have a wider reach across the faculty.

 

 

EDI: EngiQueers

For the first post part of our EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) campaign, we interviewed Ezra Goldberg (former EnqiQueers President) and Nicholas Ramsubick (current EngiQueers President) and learned a lot about EngiQueers at Queen’s. Scroll down to read the interview!

Also, check out the video below showing the highlights from the interview!


What is the story behind Engiqueers at Queen’s?

Engiqueers was established four years ago with the aim of creating a safe, accepting, and inclusive space for queer-identified students and their allies in engineering at Queen’s. Some of the events that they hosted last year included a Bridge Building competition and a Valentine’s Campaign for the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research. The purpose of these events was to improve mental health and destress students during the fall semester.

Engiqueers is part of a national nonprofit organization, a chapter of Engiqueers Canada. Every year, Engiqueers Canada holds a fundraiser for all chapters to raise donations.

 

How did you find out and/or get into Engiqueers?

Nicholas: I’m coming back for my last year and I knew I wanted to get involved and make sure that I was a part in holding spaces for underrepresented individuals in the engineering community, like the QTBIPOC LGBTQ+ community. Especially since my identity is a black queer person. During the two years I spent away from Queen’s, I appreciated having people around me who could understand and share my experiences and now that I’m back I want to make sure that I am a part of creating a safe space for all engineers.

Ezra: I literally didn’t know EngiQueers was a thing until I noticed a sticker that my friend had. Because of that, I went to my first event where they had a table at QP and they were just having a conversation. At first, I was worried about it being cliquey, and exclusive, but instead everyone was so nice and welcoming. From there, I got more involved, started off as an Events Manager and then became President the year after.

 

What is one thing you want people to know about Engiqueers?

This year, Engiqueers is focused on making more events specifically catered to the QTBIPOC community, as well as focusing on all the intersectionality’s of being a queer person. The goal is to create a community that represents all identities; culture, gender, etc. Students in engineering cannot be categorized into one box. They are black, queer, fluid, etc. Engiqueers is creating a space for those voices that have usually been silenced, to find space, and hold space. The events we have serve more as a space where we people can come together and have conversations with others who understand them. It’s a space where people care about who you are and are trying to uplift who you are, in a safe and supportive environment.

 

In what ways do clubs like yours help Queen’s engineers?

We have had professional development, and educational events, queer sex ed. talks serving as educational resources, and held a panel with queer alumni and staff at Queen’s. We help students in more specific ways. Even just “fun” events allow for a space that is specifically and explicitly queer. It’s a place to meet other people of different ages and take up space.

A couple of years back the Engineering Wellness Center was closed down. It was a beacon for engineers to go talk and sit in a safe and supportive environment. Now that we don’t have that space available, clubs like ours have to take on that initiative to hold similar supportive environments. We are engineers but there is so much more to us. With our busy schedules there’s no time for us to sit and reflect on the rest of our identities, which can be draining.

 

What does Engiqueers mean to you?

Ezra: Engiqueers is about empowerment. Growing up you see so many ideas of “what it means to be an engineer” and I never saw myself in that. I never thought it was something I’d be able to do. Instead you see that gay men can be hairstylists or interior designers and that’s it. I never saw myself being technical or using math, which I’ve always liked. Representation matters and its important.

Nicholas: Engiqueers, for me, shows the resiliency of the community to take up space in such oppressive environments, especially engineering, which is predominantly cis white males taking up space and holding power. Again, it’s about empowering and shows resiliency to come together and show that show we’re here, we are engineers, and we’re queer, and we’re also XYZ. To show that this is what it means to be an engineer, and this is what it looks like to be an engineer, like it could be anything. I think it takes a lot of courage to do that in spaces where you’re told to not talk about these things.

 

What would be the goal of your initiatives at the end of the year?

Our main goal is to uplift and advocate for queer engineers and allies. We are trying to focus on the uplifting and advocacy for the QTBIPOC community. It is important to speak about the intersectionality’s of being a queer person, being a white queer person, and recognizing privilege and oppression. There are hierarchies in our society, and we need to talk about them. There are underrepresented groups in engineering, who need to know that there is a space for them and there are people who look like them and who are advocating for their lives. Engiqueers is a place where individuals can come out of the gaze of their oppressors and come together to be a community. That is the hopes of our initiatives.

We also really want to collaborate with other queer clubs or just clubs in general who are helping to create queer-positive spaces. There are so many clubs at Queen’s outside of EngSoc that a lot of engineers may not know about who are doing a lot of amazing labour to help the queer community, so we want to partner with them to help them with the work they’ve already been doing.

 

What is one misconception about your initiative?

The main misconception is that our space is only for queer people or those who are very much out and self-assured. Engiqueers is an open space to allies, those figuring themselves out, or those in the closet. Nobody has everything figured out in life. Everyone is welcome. It’s not a space where you have to know your label. It’s a space for you.

 

What change would you like to see and how can other students help? What would you like to see the Engineering Faculty of Queen’s do to help?

Faculty: I’ve heard disheartening things about faculty, and I know that is out of my control. On the @erasedbyFEAS Instagram account, a student was being misgendered and treated rudely in the washroom by a staff member. It would be nice if staff could have positive space awareness training, to ensure they aren’t just going to be a bystander and actively help. There are people who are opposed to this training and there are some people who will never understand these things and that’s unfortunate, but despite this, I think this training should be pushed to the staff as being something important.

Change I would like to see, I think, is have the faculty prioritize bringing in representation of queer and BIPOC engineers, with financial backing behind it. The faculty should try and hold their own panels and have guest speakers so engineering students can learn from them and see what it actually means “to be an engineer”. I think that if you bring a queer engineer you should compensate them for their time and discussing their hardships, success, and traumas. It’s a lot of labor that BIPOC students put into doing this stuff. It’s time for faculty to put in the same sort of labor. Doing the same thing students have been doing for a while, the faculty should show that they prioritize their students.

In addition, I find it frustrating with everything that has happened with mental health support. It has been cut leaving three individuals to take on all of the engineering students. I think more effort could be made towards mental health. For example, giving out lemons with the duck song playing in the back for #BellLetsTalk was super inconsiderate. It talked down the severity of mental health and spoke volumes about the faculty. Queer people are far more likely to suffer from mental health illnesses and we should have conversations on how to uplift people. Mental health shouldn’t just be addressed in our tuition.


We want to hire more people of all types, so we can have all voices in the conversation. We are hiring for positions if you’d like to come join. If not please feel free to come to any of our events and check out our social media @QueensEngiQueers