The oSTEM Conference started out on Friday, November 17th. When we first got there, as the Penn State chapter president, I attended a leadership summit. At this meeting, I and many other chapter leaders from across the United States (and Europe) discussed what makes for effective leadership. This included going over how to plan events, how to increase participation and exec-board membership, and so on. This was a great start to the weekend, as it allowed me to think about ways to improve my chapter over the course of the entire conference.
The keynote speaker and dinner on Friday officially kicked off the exciting weekend. I got to hear from the experiences of a gay, African-American professor, and the hardships he has faced. He gave excellent insight into how to persevere in an environment that is otherwise not used to someone of a different race/gender/ethnicity etc. This is very much relevant to me, as there is a significant underrepresentation of LGBT individuals within the sciences.
On Saturday, I attended workshops with a few different companies. I listened to talks from Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Genentech, and NASA. They each gave insight to what they do as companies, and how they incorporate diversity and inclusion into their organizations. I found myself thoroughly impressed by the accepting atmosphere that all of the groups portrayed. In the afternoon, I attended the career & grad school expo, where many different STEM companies were represented. I ended up talking with ExxonMobil and ultimately was given an interview on the next day for a potential internship. The evening finished up with a workshop I attended that highlighted stories from a panel of graduate and undergraduate students, and their experiences at their respective universities.
On Sunday, I had an enjoyable interview with an ExxonMobil representative, and listened to the final keynote speaker, Nancy McConeghy. She is the VP/CIO of Raytheon, and a fantastic advocate for both the LGBT and STEM communities.
Ultimately, the conference was a wonderful success. Not only did I get to interact and grow my professional network by talking with numerous companies, but I got to further embrace my identity as a gay individual within STEM. I am so glad that I was able to attend the 2017 Annual oSTEM Conference, and I was able to do this thanks to the support provided by the Presidential Leadership Academy. The Penn State oSTEM chapter did not receive as much funding as we thought we would get for the conference, so the funds provided by the PLA allowed me to attend the conference without fear of taking another deserving member’s spot. Thank you for granting me this amazing experience!