Today, migraine and all, I decided to attend the I-News “Losing Ground” panel discussion at my school, Metropolitan State University of Denver, between classes. (Yes, I’m one of the odd people who is still technically functional while suffering a migraine. Believe me, that does NOT make things any easier.) The purpose of the panel discussion was to address the findings of a recent study using census data from 1960 through 2010, showing a growing divide in Colorado between the ethnicities since the “generally recognized” end of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement sometime in the mid to late 1980’s. On the panel were representatives from I-News, Ms. Laura Frank and Mr. Burt Hubbard, Dr. Vincent Harding, professor Emeritus from the Iliff school of Theology in Denver, and Dr. Ramon Del Castillo, MSU Denver Chair of Chicana/Chicano Studies. The information for the study and the results can be found on the I-News “Losing Ground” Website.
They discussed the findings of the study to a packed room with some people sitting on the floor. They also shared possible reasons for the growing divide between Caucasian people and other ethnicities in Colorado in education, income, home ownership, poverty and mortality. They then provided suggestions on what we as individuals can do to change the trend, from active changes to changing our personal views. When the floor was opened for questions from the assembled, one of the panel asked for suggestions of other things they could do as well as what did other people do to help close this divide.
Now, maybe it was the pain ringing in my head from my unrelenting migraine, or the two cups of coffee I had ingested with 800mg of Ibuprofen but for some bizarre reason, I walked up to the microphone and blew everyone’s mind. Including my own.
I introduced myself and told everyone I was pursuing my degree in Aerospace Systems. Gasps went around the room. I then asked the packed room if anyone else was in a science or engineering field or pursuing a STEM degree. No one responded in the affirmative. I went on to point out how rare it would be to see a STEM student at these events. Partially because our educational map is science intensive, leaving little room, if any for cultural or ethnic electives let alone activities. I continued on and told them the intent of the multicultural credit requirement can be easily subverted by classes like “History of Rock and Roll.” Shock rebounded in the room. Next I pointed out that although the majority of students in STEM degrees are classic white males, there are those students, like me, who are not only under represented in industry, but also forgotten by our school advocacy offices. Finally, I challenged the ethnic and women’s studies organizations to reach out to the STEM programs on campus to both show support for the students they’ve forgotten because we have chosen non-traditional fields AND help build the multicultural ethos they were just saying was dying. I reiterated that, as things are, there is absolutely no reason for the the classical engineer or engineering company to develop a diversity ethos. There aren’t enough of us there. We are pioneers in that sense but without the support of advocacy offices. If they were truly looking for a way to change things, they need to think outside the box and reach out to help all of us. Even those of us who currently don’t have the time to reach out to them. We need their help. Even if we don’t know it.
The room was STUNNED. The panel was shocked they hadn’t considered it. The heads of the Advocacy offices were suddenly motivated to do just that. Dr. Del Castillo agreed they do tend to forget about students in other fields and that they needed to be included. Suddenly people were throwing business cards at me and trying to find out more about my program. I had created a firestorm and was completely unprepared for it.
My head was still ringing and I was fighting nausea as people kept talking to me. Plus, I had to go to class. I finally was able to extricate myself after 15 minutes resulting in my being 10 minutes late to class because I was walking “migraine slow” to my class on the other side of campus.
I’m still surprised at the response. I’m not sure what possessed me to say anything. But, if change happens, then I guess it’s good I did take an impulsive chance and say something. If I were in my right mind, my normal procedure would be to just listen, absorb and then share later. I guess, sometimes it does pay to be a functional migraine sufferer. It makes you do crazy things.