Engineering Student and President of Out in STEM Shares Diversity of Thought

Caroline Davis is a rising fourth-year biomedical engineering major who is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. We asked Davis to share some experience and insights about oSTEM at UVA.

Q: Why did you choose engineering as a field of study? Why UVA?

A: I chose engineering because I wanted to create something bigger than myself. Engineers have an ethical obligation to make the world a better place than we found it, and I strive to do exactly that. I am studying Biomedical Engineering so that I can engineer biology to combat climate change. I was drawn to UVA Engineering due to the large emphasis on ethics and diversity of thought. UVA Engineering emphasizes a greater picture beyond classroom-taught principles and I am inspired by this emphasis.

What is oSTEM, and what is the organization trying to accomplish?

Broadly, oSTEM, or Out in STEM, is a professional organization that empowers LGBTQ+ people to succeed in the STEM community. As the oSTEM student chapter at UVA, we strive to celebrate LGBTQ+ STEM majors by creating a safe environment that champions our achievements.

What is your role in the organization, and why is being a leader in oSTEM important to you?

I have been the president of oSTEM since last academic year! When I began my time at UVA, I found myself in an unique situation where, for the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in my identity and courageous in the face of discrimination. I decided to utilize those strengths to serve other LGBTQ+ peers who cannot express their identities freely. Being a leader in oSTEM is important to me because I have the privilege to both wear my identity publicly and to create a better environment for others to safely do the same.

What professional opportunities are available to future engineering leaders through oSTEM?

We work closely with the Center of Diversity in Engineering and the Career Center at UVA to create programs and initiatives that directly benefit our community. We host opportunities to build resumes, educate the greater UVA community on LGBTQ+ allyship, and travel to the oSTEM Annual Conference each year.

What’s next for oSTEM at UVA Engineering?

Last year, we built oSTEM's community up after almost two years of online learning. We improved oSTEM's impact on the greater Charlottesville community by raising over $2,000 through our Parents' Weekend Drag Show for Side By Side, a local nonprofit that works with LGTBQ+ youth. This year, we want to increase our contribution to Side By Side with another Parents' Weekend Drag Show, travel to the oSTEM Annual Conference in November, and continue building up our community as we turn the corner of the COVID pandemic.

What do you think needs to happen in our community and beyond to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students who are interested in becoming engineers?

Outreach! There's a common stereotype that engineering is for a specific identity, and that stereotype is incorrect. Engineering requires diversity; without it, the discipline would remain stagnant. Prospective students should feel comfortable pursuing engineering regardless of their identity. Promoting success stories from current UVA LGBTQ+ students and defining places like the Center of Diversity in Engineering as LGTBQ+ safe spaces are two examples that would create a more welcoming and inclusive environment.

Caroline Davis

Caroline Davis, a rising fourth-year biomedical engineering major, is an undergraduate researcher in the Kasson Lab. She is also president of Out in STEM at UVA.