KAWSE works to foster a sense of community, inclusiveness

Madison Schoemann, senior in civil engineering, works on a project at Durland Hall. Civil engineers build and maintain infrastructure projects. (File photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Morgan Greene and Samantha Garrett rushed to put the finishing touches on the Kramer Dining Center’s multicultural student lounge in preparation for the Women in STEM event last Wednesday afternoon. With cookies, games and an information session planned, these women were ready to greet any student who walked through the door.

This event was hosted by the K-State Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering, a campus organization working for the advancement of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM . Greene, the program coordinator for KAWSE, explained that the organization’s mission is “to enrich the lives of girls and women in STEM.”

Greene said that KAWSE hosts events that “address common barriers and challenges that women in STEM – but also other populations under-represented in STEM – face”. She explained that one of those barriers is the isolation that students often experience, which can negatively impact their college experience.

Garrett, a Masters student in Student Counseling and Development, is currently working for the Accommodation and Food Services Department as part of her graduate program and fulfilling her internship requirements with the KAWSE office. She said the hope behind this event is that those who come forward will feel valued as members of a supportive community.

“As Morgan mentioned, it can be really isolating in college, and I think especially with COVID over the last couple of years… it’s been really tough for a lot of students,” Garrett said. “And so, I think finding a space… having a connection with someone else that lasts beyond this event, I would say, is the overall goal.”

Ayana Belk, senior in landscape architecture, is a student who attended this event. As a member of an under-represented population at K-State, Belk said she hoped to reveal as part of her dissertation – scheduled for this spring – the various barriers, avenues to support, and future recommendations for black students in their landscape architecture programs.

“There are only two blacks [landscape architecture] students at K-State, ”Belk said,“ and I’m one of them.

Her dissertation will include the experiences of black students in landscape architecture at K-State and other universities.

Belk’s long-term goal is to start a non-profit organization focused on teaching design for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12. At the Women in STEM event, Greene presented several opportunities offered by KAWSE that match Belk’s future ambitions.

Greene encourages students of all genders to attend events organized by KAWSE, although the organization specifically targets women.

“Our office always tries to be more inclusive,” said Greene, “and therefore all of our events and programs… whatever KAWSE has to offer is always open to anyone who wants to come.”

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