What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
We anticipate that our primary challenge will be to sustain student engagement throughout the year, but we have a variety of plans to keep students invested:
1. Through year-long mentorships, we will encourage our chapter leaders to take advantage of regular programming opportunities, and we will advise them about upcoming programming opportunities and deadlines to keep their chapters on track for success.
2. As we roll out a new website, we will have more resources for our general membership, such as periodic mentorships with students who receive internships. Other resources will include funding and scholarship opportunities, continued career advice, and STEM-focused competitions.
3. We will continue developing collaborative partnerships with corporations and host distinctive STEM-related workshops where students can interact with STEM professionals and corporate recruiters.
4. Our main purpose is to educate and develop LGBTQA students in the STEM fields, but it is important to remember that "fun" is a key element for the success of any student organization. Therefore, we will encourage our student leaders to plan STEM-related activities and events that are exciting and interesting to their own communities.
A second challenge we look forward to overcoming relates to our unique and diverse backgrounds. We believe that our organization could be met with some adversity, especially when we bring STEM programming to high schools. Gaining permission to program in high schools will require patience, diligence, and a number of educator resources. In order to preserve our organization at a national level, we will only approach educational opportunities where parents and teachers invite oSTEM to enrich their children's learning environment. An ideal way for us to program in K-12 classrooms will be to collaborate with corporations and engage the students with cutting-edge resources. In preparation for such opportunities, we will also need to train dedicated educators after consulting with professional and legal resources.
Tell us about your partnerships
Corporate sponsors are interested in accessing LGBTQA students with academic majors that directly relate to hiring needs. Through sponsorships, corporations help us attend national and regional conferences, where we engage LGBTQA youth who are majoring in STEM-related disciplines at colleges and universities around the country.
In order to optimize returns for both our students and our sponsors, we provide opportunities where recruiters can interact with students of all ages. Ideally, we aim to create workshops where students are exposed to new products and technologies, and where they also learn about the careers available for STEM graduates. During these workshops, sponsors frequently provide STEM-related giveaways, which serve to enrich the experience for our students.
Often, corporations also encourage their current or retired employees to participate in community outreach programs. Given the diverse nature of our organization and our dedication to sustaining relationships between our chapters and corporate sponsors, oSTEM is an ideal infrastructure for identifying STEM professionals who can effectively present to a variety of audiences. As we advance our outreach efforts with communities and K-12 classrooms, it will be essential to build upon our current relationships with professional STEM educators.
With regards to workshops and presentations, we will create a resume database and employment program to connect corporate recruiters with LGBTQA STEM students. In addition, we will offer opportunities for sponsors to access our membership, depending on a corporation's level of involvement.
Explain your selections
The growth of oSTEM from one chapter to a national organization has been fueled largely by financial support from its student leaders.
For the first chapter (at Penn State University), there was little to no support available, except for University funds which enabled our participation in the "OUT for Work Conference" and the "NGLTF Creating Change Conference." The remaining contributions made to the Penn State community were paid for by the chapter president, who is now leading the national board.
Since then, employee resource groups (ERG's) have been supporting specific oSTEM chapters, but only when recruiting budgets allow such support. These ERG's have included Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman.
To build infrastructure that could sustain a chapter-based organization, the founders of each chapter collaborated to form a national board in 2009. All of the fees related to creating and sustaining oSTEM as a non-profit organization were absorbed by the national board. In 2010, the national board gained 501(c)(3) tax exemption status and covered all related expenses.
After gaining tax exemption, the national board collaborated to create our first workshop. Except for the required fees to participate as an exhibitor, which were covered by Northrup Grumman, the national board absorbed all costs related to funding oSTEM's involvement at the conference. These costs included registrations, branded giveaways, travel, and hotels.
From here on, we anticipate our funding will come from sponsors interested in developing innovative STEM graduates.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
Out in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (oSTEM) is already a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and we are building infrastructure to help our chapter-based organization coalesce into a collaborative, networked community.
We will soon introduce a new website that will integrate with social networking sites, bringing together students' social and academic lives. Through user profiles, we will connect our students with resources that are relevant to their academic careers, thus providing a webspace that can be tailored for each person's long term professional objectives. These resources will include academic guidance, internships and career opportunities that are LGBTQA-friendly, and notices about STEM-related needs or opportunities, including competitions, conferences, and events.
In addition to creating a website for our members, we will also enrich the interactions between our membership and their local communities by broadening outreach efforts and providing incentives for oSTEM students to collaborate with K-12 classrooms and other student groups. We anticipate that each chapter will need dedicated leaders to coordinate outreach efforts and to locate STEM professionals are also effective educators or presenters. Our three year goal is to require our chapters to collaborate with local K-12 public schools and plan several STEM programs per year.
Finally, we expect to form numerous partnerships over the next three years, and during that time, we will work with sponsors to form a corporate board of advisors to help direct oSTEM's future.