The Natural Sciences and Math Student Action Team is a new student group created by St. Olaf Associate Professor of Practice in Biology Diane Angell that aims to start conversations about representation in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at St. Olaf. Similar action-based teams created at other institutions inspired Angell to create one at St. Olaf.
Angell was inspired to start the group after hearing about a similar team started at Davidson College, a small liberal arts school in North Carolina. As a faculty member, she sees the team as a way to listen to students.
“Faculty spent a lot of time talking to each other, and were really good at talking to people. But maybe less good, or less effective at listening sometimes. I think we are at a point where we need to listen to students about their experience,” Angell said.
The team is comprised of six students, each majoring in a different STEM area. The student representatives are Toni Zheleva ’23 (Biology), Sinthya Juviani ’23 (Psychology), Mohamed Yassin ’23 (Computer Science), Anna Mulhern ’22 (Chemistry), Liberty Czarnik ’21 (Mathematics) and Anurag Solanki ’21 (Physics). Each member is tasked with reaching out to faculty in their department to let them know they can act as resources to fellow students.
“We are a group for students who work actively to help people who perhaps don’t feel comfortable voicing their problems. Helping them work through how to collaborate with their professor [and] how to approach a professor … Not everyone is comfortable engaging in that conversation so we want to help by being the facilitators of that,” Zheleva said.
The group is planning to launch a website within the next week. The website will feature research and statistics related to representation and inclusivity in STEM. It will also include videos that introduce the backgrounds and interests of each member of the team.
The group meets on Zoom every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The team can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.