A University of Minnesota student group dedicated to promoting diversity in science is creating a scholarship to attract aspiring scientists in underrepresented communities.
While still in the early stages, the Association of Multicultural Scientists’ goal is to raise $4,000 to give out four scholarships to incoming undergraduate students in STEM programs at the University. One of the group's goals is to encourage multicultural perspectives within STEM careers. The scholarships will be granted to students who are part of historically underrepresented communities, said AMS Vice President Malaney Young.
The “Turn-Around Scholarship” is inspired by a similar one Young said she received in high school. Young said the funds helped her succeed academically and she hopes the Turn-Around Scholarship makes the same difference for other students.
“For me when I went to college, it helped me so much,” Young said. “I was working at Dunkin' Donuts waking up at 5 a.m. before classes ... having that extra money really alleviated a lot of that stress for me.”
AMS is comprised of graduate and undergraduate students. The group’s mission is to create a supportive community for people of all backgrounds.
“It’s a place where we can, you know, come together to provide a supportive environment for each other and do good things in the community,” Young said.
In addition to the scholarship, the organization hosts community events like “STEM Academy,” an annual free event that invites elementary school-aged children to learn about science and perform experiments. The group also organizes career and professional development events and seminars, with topics that have ranged from women in life science to effectively communicating scientific research to the general public.
“The goal is really pushing people with this view to go further … [and] to let everybody know that we should focus on promoting multiculturalism, because that’s a way to advance our society,” said Angelo Yuan, former AMS president.
Navpreet Kaur said AMS gives her and others a platform to express their thoughts and the challenges they face. She said being a part of the group has given her more confidence.
“I am myself, an international graduate student, and many times you feel out of place with where you are, how you think,” Kaur said. “I think it gives you a very nice platform where you don’t have the fear of being judged ... because of the cultural diversity here, everyone is very accepting.”
This year, AMS President Anita Kwashie said she wants to collaborate with other student groups to advocate for issues that impact community members. For example, Kwashie is working to foster more diversity-focused initiatives, particularly to address mental health.
“There isn’t as much of a space for [undergraduate] students of color ... so they have to deal with the stress of being in a STEM program and also the stress of maybe being one of the few people in their lab or in their department that looks like themselves,” Kwashie said.
The organization’s mission to promote equality within STEM is what Kwashie said made her want to join AMS and take on a leadership position.
“Science and STEM fields in general have been a very homogeneous field in terms of ethnicity or socioeconomic status, and it’s been that way for quite a while,” Kwashie said. “AMS is basically our way of making those voices heard, who don’t often get to be heard.”