Out in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (oSTEM), is a national student society dedicated to educating and fostering leadership among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied (LGBTQA) youth. The society is a sustainable infrastructure that brings co-curricular STEM programs to colleges and universities across the United States. We provide students with resources, professional opportunities, and mentorships, and we encourage each chapter to develop their local communities, with some focus on opportunities for K-12 classrooms and community centers. Our growth depends on the national board and student leaders, and our sustainability depends on volunteers and sponsorships from individuals and corporations. Everyone is welcome to participate and benefit from oSTEM.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities are historically underrepresented and underserved. A survey conducted by the Williams' Institute suggests over 25 million Americans (11% of the U.S. population) are LGBTQ, with nearly 4% who openly identify themselves. It is not surprising that few people openly identify as LGBTQ; as a consequence of coming out, people often experience difficult challenges. For example, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, many LGBTQ youth are forced to leave home, and between 20-40% of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Despite being marginalized, LGBTQ communities often surpass expectations. This is, in part, because they are practiced at overcoming adversity, they are experienced at affecting policy or political change, and they are tremendously diverse, bringing together people from every age, political affiliation, religious creed, ethnicity, disability status, and socioeconomic status. Our oSTEM membership is no exception to this, and because of this, our students experience many unique interactions that prepare them to make bold and creative solutions to complex problems. Students who identify as straight Allies are widely encouraged to join oSTEM and participate in our professional activities as volunteers or as part of our membership. Importantly, our national board members are students or recent graduates and each identify as LGBTQ. Collectively, our broad professional experiences make us well-suited for serving students across the STEM fields.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our goal is to reach students from a diverse range of backgrounds and broaden their participation in STEM fields. We are the only student society that provides co-curricular opportunities for such a diverse range of LGBTQA communities who seek careers in STEM fields. In addition to building sustainable relationships with underrepresented groups, oSTEM also brings together a great variety of professionals from across STEM disciplines. Through maintaining these connections, we enable students to experience complex and integrative opportunities before graduating. Moreover, by encouraging our students to interact with their communities and to program with K-12 classrooms, we create opportunities for them to collaborate and mentor others. To our knowledge, there are no other examples of national organizations that so broadly reach students from across the STEM disciplines. Only one other group serves LGBTQA communities in the STEM fields: The National Organization for Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP). While our groups collaborate on various endeavors, NOGLSTP primarily serves graduates who are well established in their careers, and oSTEM concentrates only on students. By focusing our efforts on student development, we substantially broaden their academic experience, we propel their interest in the STEM fields, and we help to mold them into STEM professionals who will ultimately contribute to the future of our economy.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In short, we promote the long-term development of STEM students across all our chapters. To maximize student interactions with their local communities, we encourage a variety of opportunities, including bringing STEM resources and education into public schools. Regular events for our chapters, which can be arranged for collaborations with K-12 classrooms, include meet-and-greets with STEM professionals, panel discussions, corporate presentations, research presentations, workshops, tutoring, projects, competitions, and company or laboratory tours. In addition to these opportunities, our chapters also collaborate with other student groups and attend professional LGBTQA or STEM conferences. With regards to our annual competitions and projects -- we look forward to incorporating themes that prompt innovation, such as "constructing resources for K-12 classrooms." Ideas for these could include a course-ready search engine for STEM educators, a customizable study APP to streamline homework and enrich parent-teacher relationships, or even equipment recycling and training programs to bring useable STEM technology into public schools. Given the diverse nature of LGBTQA communities, we expect our students will collaborate on a broad range of bold and creative ideas to overcome such STEM-focused challenges. To encourage successful outcomes for each oSTEM chapter, we provide one-on-one mentorships with our student leaders, matching them with STEM professionals from similar educational backgrounds. Through these mentorships, our student leaders gain ideas to further cultivate their local communities and learn how they can advance their own academic careers. We hope to make a similar program available for the entire oSTEM membership. In addition to working directly with student leaders, we also create parallel opportunities for all of our participants to interact with STEM professionals -- both in public schools and at national events. Notably, after experiencing oSTEM programming at professional conferences, many participants plan events for their own community or they set out to establish their own oSTEM chapters.
About You
Out in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, Incorporated
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, Incorporated

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Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

In 2005, LGBTQA students from across the country met at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in Washington D.C. While sharing about their respective communities, the students realized the need for resources to enhance the academic climate for LGBTQA students and, consequently, their ability to succeed in school. The group tasked themselves with building the first student-focused organization to serve LGBTQA communities in disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – oSTEM was the solution.

During that year, the first chapter was founded at Pennsylvania State University. Within several years, three more oSTEM chapters (or affiliates) were established at The Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Over this time, it also became clear that, despite substantial educational infrastructure, resources to support STEM students were severely lacking. In reality, there is little incentive given for students to continue advancing in the STEM fields after high school.

In 2009, the existing chapters decided that more resources were necessary in order to adequately support the society, to engage the current membership, and to reach students across the country. Together, the student leaders formed a national board that subsequently founded oSTEM Incorporated, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which oversees the society’s growth and builds resources as necessary. Through the national board, oSTEM has grown to 22 chapters, reaching both public and private universities, ranging from MIT to UC Berkeley.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

It is clear that our methods to expand oSTEM have already been successful; we have grown from just a single oSTEM chapter in 2005 to over 20 chapters today. In the future, we will use data from our chapters, our entire membership, and our programs that reach K-12 classrooms as measures of our success.

We will soon have enough statistics to report about our alumni members who have successfully entered careers as STEM professionals. For example, oSTEM members have held internships or been otherwise employed by corporations such as Microsoft, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Exelon, Accenture, Best Buy, and Progressive Insurance. As far as academic endeavors, we have graduate students or postdoctoral associates currently studying at several universities, including Pennsylvania State University, University of California (Berkeley), and Yale University School of Medicine.

In addition to our general population measures, we also conduct surveys at each workshop to determine their impact. At a recent workshop, we received overwhelmingly positive feedback from nearly 50 students who are enrolled at over 25 colleges and universities.

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Early on, we will focus our energy on conferences organized for LGBTQA students. Once established as a national society, we will work to advance our activities with K-12 public schools and national STEM conferences.

Concurrently, we will redesign our website as a comprehensive resource for all oSTEM members, where we can direct them through academic and co-curricular programs. Through the site, we will encourage opportunities such as volunteering in programs that serve K-12 classrooms. We also anticipate gaining the ability to direct specific learning opportunities, including competitions to invent or develop resources for K-12 classrooms.

Finally, when we have sufficient support, we will create a corporate advisory board with which to develop future directions for oSTEM.

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.

Partnerships and Accountability
Please tell us more about how your partnership was formed and how it functions. What specific role does each partner play? What unique resources does each partner bring to the initiative?

Our aim is to create partnerships that are truly collaborative endeavors, forming over several months of careful planning.

Currently, there seem to be three ways by which we successfully create partnerships: 1) being contacted by corporate recruiters who would like to hire STEM students; 2) reaching out to employee resource groups that serve LGBTQA communities; 3) working through family, friends, and oSTEM alumni who are employed by LGBTQA-friendly corporations.

After an initial proposal from oSTEM, our corporate contacts participate with us by funding at a certain level of sponsorship. In general, these sponsorships have been nominal, yet they substantially advance our ability to reach students.

In return for corporate funding, we widely advertise the partnerships on our website, in our newsletters, and during our presentations. When requested, we also offer several ways for corporate recruiters to interact with our students, and we have already been successful at placing students in internships with our sponsors.

In the future, we also plan to host workshops and presentations from corporations who have unequivocal access to their own products and cutting edge technologies. We believe that opportunities for students and corporations to interact will be the most effective ways to engage students and to bring corporate recruiters the most talented students.

How are you building in accountability for students' successful STEM learning outcomes? Please provide a summary and examples.

1. Merit-based incentives/accountability:
To maximize learning outcomes, we survey participants about each event. We collaborate with each corporation, college/university, and public school to determine accountability. Whenever possible, we work with student leaders to coordinate events that can be reported for (graded) academic credit or independent projects. In some cases, feedback can be incorporated into student or employee evaluations. Other times, a merit-based award may be more appropriate. We make sure to record and review all feedback for future oSTEM events.

2. Endorsements for successful chapters:
By creating requirements for our chapters, we can direct our student leaders to program a number of opportunities each year. Requirements are customized for different communities and include STEM professional and educational opportunities. The national board endorses all chapters who meet our guidelines.

3. Certification of top graduates:
Through our new website, student members will receive guidance to direct their careers. Certifications can be awarded to students who complete a minimum number of opportunities. We will require students to report on each completed opportunity. Recruiters can verify standings with the national board. We will design our program so that it can develop and change over time.

4. Internship/Employment opportunities:
Recruiters have opportunities to access an oSTEM resume database. Students who complete STEM certifications and retain a minimum GPA in an accredited program may be endorsed for employment opportunities. Members selected for internships must submit reports about their experiences for recognition in our certification program.


Investment, Marketing/Media, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.).

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add needs that may not be listed.

Financial support will be essential for the growth and expansion of our national STEM organization. Legal support would help us develop a sustainable organization that can adequately function across the United States. Finally, having board members with advanced experience in marketing and public relations would considerably augment our ability to attract sponsors, mentors, and volunteers.


Human Resources/Talent, Research/Information, Collaboration/Networking, Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add offers that may not be listed.

We form lasting partnerships to educate and foster leadership among our students, encouraging opportunities that will have positive outcomes for everyone involved. In fact, many of our chapters frequently work with other student groups or corporations on a number of STEM-related projects. In addition to offering student collaborators, our chapter-based system allows us to mobilize STEM-related communities throughout the nation, directing opportunities for them to work together on complex problems.