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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt oSTEM wins National Rookie Chapter of the Year, professor wins oSTEM Global STEM Service Award

The Vanderbilt chapter and a Vanderbilt professor both won awards at the 2023 Out in STEM Conference.
Leo Huang
oSTEM Rookie Chapter of the Year award on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as photographed on Nov. 12, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Leo Huang)

Vanderbilt’s oSTEM chapter recently attended the 13th annual Out in STEM Conference, winning National Rookie Chapter of the Year. Dr. Luis A. Leyva of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Peabody College also received the Global STEM Service Award. 

oSTEM is an organization aimed at supporting LGBTQ+ students in STEM. The conference took place from Nov. 9-12 in Anaheim, Calif. 

Vanderbilt oSTEM Co-President Olivia Quiroga, a junior, told The Hustler that she and fellow junior and Co-President Leo Huang founded the university’s chapter last fall.

“oSTEM at Vanderbilt is a young chapter that has grown over a short period of time,” Quiroga said. 

Quiroga was enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in the conference.

“It was really amazing to be able to present our individual research and support others in the organization,” Quiroga said. 

Vanderbilt student presentations ranged from “Including Social Sciences in the STEM Umbrella” to “Misinformation in the Media and Communication of STEM.”

Quiroga explained that the conference allowed students to meet other chapters and develop their connections.

“All around, the conference was an amazing networking opportunity combined with professional development,” Quiroga said. “The social aspect of the conference was also thorough, with socials and drag shows dispersed throughout the weekend.”

Attendees had the opportunity to speak with Paul Turczynski (BE ‘90), Vandy alumnus and Boeing Senior Director of Business Development for Maritime and Intelligence Systems. He also serves as executive co-chair for the oSTEM External Technical Alliance. 

“It is interesting and I think invigorating to be in a place where everybody is authentically themselves, and I think that’s one of the things that Boeing strives to do with the conferences. We show up in force,” Turczynski said. 

Turczynski expressed Boeing’s interest in staying involved with oSTEM and the greater Vanderbilt community. 

“Boeing sponsors a number of different research projects at Vanderbilt,” Turczynski said.  

Levya, who is a math education professor at Vanderbilt and the director of PRISM Research Lab, said he is excited to further his work in creating spaces for LGBTQ+ people in STEM, for which he won his award. He is particularly interested in working with oSTEM to partner with different organizational spaces, faculty and departments at Vanderbilt. 

“The award was to distinguish the work that I’ve been contributing to for intersectional justice for the LGBTQ+ community in STEM,” Leyva said. “One of those main ways was through a research project called the Queer Students of Color in STEM Project.” 

Leyva described receiving the award as “meaningful” and attributed much of his success to the support of Vanderbilt and his peers. 

“In my acceptance speech, I acknowledged many people who contributed to the success of this work including members of the PRISM lab, the funders, for the research project, different members of the Vanderbilt community who have supported this body of work and, of course, the oSTEM community,” Leyva said. 

Leyva said he hopes to continue furthering LGBTQ+ spaces in STEM at Vanderbilt.

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About the Contributor
Zarrin Zahid
Zarrin Zahid, Staff Writer and Graphics Staffer
Zarrin Zahid (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in law, history and society and minoring in Islamic studies. Besides The Hustler, she enjoys writing stories, cooking and watching bad horror movies unironically. She can be reached at [email protected].
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