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Saturday, October 25, 2014

LISA becomes newest LGBT organization

LISA will host an event for Coming Out Week.

The newest LGBT organization is beginning just in time for Coming Out Week.

LISA, or LGBTQ in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Association, was founded by senior Amanda Prescott with the hope that the LGBT community and its allies would feel a sense of community within science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Prescott’s initial reasons for starting LISA were very personal.

“I received a little bit of harassment, just from being a woman in the STEM community,” Prescott said. “(And) when I came out last spring semester, I just felt more uncomfortable and out of place.”

Prescott’s solution was creating her own niche. Thus, LISA was born.

The organization has helped not only Prescott but also other LGBT and ally students within the STEM fields.

With the help of LISA Treasurer Duy Nguyen, the organization has already been able to reach out to students. The organization has hosted two events, and its next event is scheduled for Thursday in the LGBTQ Resource Center.

For one of these events, LISA organized a panel of STEM educators and staff members from MU’s faculty. Among these panelists was Jessica Orsini.

Orsini, who is a staff member in the College of Agriculture, never acquired a college degree. She said she was surprised when she was asked to be part of the panel to give advice to students about the STEM academic field.

“(The questions) were much about surviving academia … and finding the balance between seeking your dreams and some day having a paycheck,” Orsini said. “Despite not having survived the process myself, I had some advice to help others to do so.”

In the competitive fields of science, technology, engineering and medicine, it is difficult to find a healthy, supportive community, as there is not much human interaction, Nguyen said.

“There’s not as much of a sense of community because (the students) are so focused on research and publication,” Nguyen said.

For Nguyen, who is also a bioengineer, the most important part of LISA is the education and outreach.

“There is so much knowledge needed in the STEM field to be successful,” Nguyen said.

He said he hopes LISA will provide LGBT students and allies in the STEM field with the proper tools and connections for success.

“It’s a good community for people to be who they want to be,” LISA member, freshman Andrew Hanson said.

Hanson is an English education major and is considering becoming a college professor. He said he enjoys the sense of community within LISA.

Freshman pre-engineering major Allison Pittman is also a member of LISA. Pittman was introduced to the LGBT community at MU through Nguyen, who is her mentor.

“It was enlightening,” Pittman said. “I learned a lot about what it was like to be transgendered and in the work world.”

One of Prescott’s goals for LISA is to invite graduate students to talk to undergrads about the process of applying for a STEM field graduate degree.

“We’re here to help,” Prescott said. “We’re here to provide information, whether it’s about STEM, career advice or just managing being a minority in science.”

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