Queer STEM club provides a sense of community for underrepresented students at Boise State

A new club on campus, the Queer STEM club wants to create a safe space for queer students, especially those in STEM. 

According to Paisley Davis, a senior computer science major and president of the club, QSTEM aims to provide academic and social support for queer students in STEM and break down the status quo surrounding STEM.

“Right now, we’re pretty small,” Davis said. “The vice president and I had plans to create this club pre-pandemic. We’re hoping next semester will be better.” 

[Photo of Paisley Davis]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

Davis wants to keep people engaged with the club and plans to do virtual events. The club offers information on internships, scholarships and other academic opportunities specifically for queer people. 

Though the club does not have any events in the near future, they have done events in the past, such as a collaboration with the Maker Club, where they built pride flags on LED strips. Davis also aims to build connections with professionals in the Boise area. 

“I like to think we’re a good place to get support,” Davis said. “Even though individuals who understand what people may be going through may not understand some of the isolation or the feeling of not fitting in.” 

Davis wants to create a welcoming environment for queer students in STEM because they understand the hardships a person may encounter.

“Even if it’s not purposeful rejection, it’s still there and people may not understand that,” Davis said. “There’s a feeling of imposter syndrome. We’re able to provide a unique understanding of that.” 

Imposter syndrome is the inability to believe that one’s success is rightfully earned.

Shannon Hansen, a senior member of technical staff at Micron in Boise, has worked with QSTEM in the past. 

“I came out at 34 years old after being in the industry for over a decade,” Hansen said. “Had I met others like me in my college and professional career, I might have felt safer coming out, but I didn’t see others like me.” 

Hansen thinks it’s powerful to see programs like QSTEM happening, especially in Idaho. She feels these kinds of programs are needed in our community. 

[Graphic of multiple test tubes with colored liquids that represent various pride flags.]
Graphic by Alieha Dryden | The Arbiter

“It’s nice to see these programs coming from the students at Boise State,” Hansen said. “It’s good to see it starting from the bottom up instead of from the top down.” 

Club Vice President and junior computer science and mathematics major Anna Rift feels there is a need for queer social groups on campus. 

“For me, it provides a greater sense of belonging,” Rift said. “It’s really nice because I’m  someone who likes to have a social group and this club provides that for me.” 

For Rift, QSTEM is important because it’s specifically aimed toward queer people. Though the Gender Equity Center provides support for both allies and LGBTQIA+ students, the QSTEM club is a closer knit community and entirely student-run. 

“We’ve mostly spread by word of mouth,” Rift said. “It’s hard to have as much engagement during a pandemic.” 

Students wanting to be involved in QSTEM can go to the club’s Engage page. Once a student has requested to be a member, Davis will reach out. 

Though not required, it is encouraged that students wanting to become involved with QSTEM are STEM majors.

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