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STEM Discussion Kicks Off MLK Days of Dialogue

February 1, 2016
Martin Luther King Jr Days of Dialogue poster
The 15th annual MLK Days of Dialogue began Monday.

The kick-off event for Martin Luther King, Jr. Days of Dialogue (MLKDOD) was a success as nearly 80 people joined the discussion Monday about challenges faced by underrepresented groups in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the University of Wyoming.

Hosted in the Wyoming Union, the event, “A Troublesome Hypothesis: The Myth of Diversity in STEM,” was part of UW’s 15th annual MLKDOD. Dean Michael Pishko, from the College of Engineering and Applied Science, provided opening remarks, followed by breakout discussion sessions among students, staff and faculty centered around “untold stories of unheard voices,” the theme of this year’s MLK DOD.

“I’m pleased this event is occurring and that our college is involved,” Pishko says. “We’re looking forward to this conversation and ongoing conversations to help us out in our efforts. Achieving diversity is a must. There’s no way the United States can remain competitive and continue its preeminence in science and technology without diversity. We have to engage our entire population. Diversity is something that greatly improves the work place, improves creativity and changes the dynamics on how people interact.”

Christina Mendoza, a master’s student in statistics, was one of many who shared their stories within the breakout discussion sessions.

“I enjoyed it because I believe it brought the issue of diversity to light for the people who attended,” she says. “Being someone who is not white and being a first-generation college student, it is hard and you feel like you’re on your own. If you don’t feel like you belong somewhere, how are you supposed to stay there, learn and grow?”

The shared stories, documented by event facilitators, will be used to help develop an action plan and clear set of objectives to affect change at an institutional level. Through this annual week of programming, UW celebrates the continuing impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and ideals. The MLK DOD tradition is intended to expand institutional awareness about issues of diversity, to build a sense of community and to celebrate diversity.

Marlin Holmes, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, helped organize the event, along with K-14 Outreach Coordinator Teddi Hofmann.

“Initially, I think it went amazingly,” Holmes says. “People were engaged and were really dedicated to what they were talking about. I think this was a great outcome and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.”

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