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Alumni & Friends

Diversity in STEM Events Draw Hundreds from College of Sciences, NC State Communities

Diversity in STEM Symposium speaker
Anthony Olaiya Wright, associate director of NC State's Goodnight Scholarships Office, was among the speakers at the Diversity in STEM Symposium.

Hundreds of College of Sciences and NC State community members attended two events in early February where they learned about issues facing diverse populations in STEM. Both events were organized by the college and sponsored by BASF.

On Feb. 7, the college held its annual Celebrating Diversity in STEM Dinner, which drew 150 attendees. Ali Scott, vice president of global regulatory affairs at BASF, and other company representatives led a student mixer prior to the event. Scott also made opening remarks at the dinner.

The keynote speaker was Alaina Brennan-Kupec ’92, executive director of portfolio strategy and analytics at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, Calif., and one of the nation’s most visible transgender activists. Brennan-Kupec is the founder and president of the non-profit and non-partisan Gender Research Advisory Council + Education. Last year, she was recognized as one of the top LGBTQ+ leaders in bio-pharma by Endpoints News.

She and her spouse recently established the Alaina and Kathleen Brennan-Kupec Transgender Collection Endowment with NC State University Libraries. The collection provides reliable information and combats negative and harmful disinformation about transgender people.

“Take advantage of the people around you. These are relationships that you’ll have for the rest of your life,” Brennan-Kupec said as she finished her remarks. “And I hope that if you live your life with some sense of purpose and integrity and compassion, that those things will keep you strong through whatever challenges you may face and hopefully make the world a better place at the same time.”

Alaina Brennan-Kupec
Alaina Brennan-Kupec

On Feb. 8, the college held its fourth Diversity in STEM Symposium featuring the theme “Creating a Community of Care”. The symposium drew about 500 in-person and virtual attendees, a record for the event. The symposium featured 16 break-out sessions on topics such as addressing mental health challenges, crafting competitive fellowship applications, and exploring the intersections of identity and STEM.

The keynote speaker was Amy Robertson ’91, an NC State mathematics alumna and the founder of the consulting firm Soul Advantage, LLC. Robertson is vice chair for the NC State College of Sciences Foundation Board of Directors, chair for the NC State Alumni Association’s Employer Advisory Council, and is a past commencement speaker for the Department of Mathematics. Robertson and her husband also established the Amy and Jason Robertson Scholarship Endowment.

“Prioritize your self-care. Prioritize it in good times so in bad times it’s on autopilot,” Robertson told the audience. “Don’t be afraid to start conversations with people that you wouldn’t normally talk to about things that are vulnerable to you.”

Amy Robertson
Amy Robertson

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Gifts to the endowment contribute to one of the college’s key priorities, creating a welcoming, inclusive and equitable environment for underrepresented students in STEM.