Why I'm Excited About the AISES National Conference
I am a new member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). My grandma suggested it to me earlier this year, having heard about it from family members on the Reservation upstate. I was skeptical, but it has turned into the best decision of my life. When I heard that there is an annual national conference, I knew I had to find a way to go.
Indigenous people in STEM are beyond underrepresented. As an Ojibwe woman, I see firsthand how the lack of representation affects my family and friends. While I am mixed and benefit from more representation than most due to white privilege, I see how the lack of representation affects people and want to address it to hopefully help bring about change and benefit my community and family.
The numbers of Indigenous people in STEM is way lower than people may recognize. According to the National Science Foundation, "Science/engineering bachelor's degrees earned by American Indian or Alaska Native women... 2014: 1,763." The resources available to Native students in STEM is small,
AISES is doing a great job of bridging the gap between information and Native students, providing plentiful resources and support through their magazine, messaging platform, and conferences. Sadly, my area doesn't have a chapter as my tribe is further up North, but they have several remarkable chapters that are bringing about a lot of change to the community. I will be at the AISES National Conference in October to do a showcase of Every Kid Gets a Robot at the Boeing STEM Day for young Native students and a lecture on "An 18-Year-Olds-Take: Unique STEM Applications for Kids" for K-12 Educators. I have a few more plans up my sleeve, but I am extremely excited to meet other Indigenous people and learn more about how the Native community is shaping the world of STEM.
Conferences like these, for example, the National Society of Black Engineers Conference (NSBE), provide direct contact with role models, mentors, and information on helpful resources for minorities in STEM. While I grew up with role models who looked similar to me in STEM, my grandma, for example, did not. She pursued a STEM career in the medical industry, eventually being a guidance counselor, professor, and director of a department at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit Michigan. My grandma did not have role models who looked like her and had to overcome a lot to be able to pursue what she wanted to. This lack of representation led to her getting a nose job in an attempt to erase her Indigenous features and suffer discrimination her whole life. My mom never pursued STEM careers, but she has suffered similarly.
AISES is helping facilitate the future, and I can't wait to meet other young Indigenous people outside of my community and help educate the future of STEM leaders and professionals.