KAWSE works to foster sense of community, inclusivity

Madison Schoemann, senior in civil engineering, works on a project in Durland Hall. Civil engineers construct and maintain infrastructure projects. (Archive photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Morgan Greene and Samantha Garrett rushed to put the final touches on the multicultural student lounge in Kramer Dining Center in preparation for the Women in STEM event this past Wednesday afternoon. With cookies, games and an information session planned, these women were ready to welcome any student walking through the door.

This event was organized by the K-State Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering, a campus organization working towards the advancement of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM. Greene, the program coordinator for KAWSE, explained that the organization’s mission is to “enrich the lives of girls and women in STEM.”

Greene said KAWSE organizes events that “address barriers and common challenges that women in STEM — but also other underrepresented populations in STEM — face.” She explained that one such barrier is the isolation college students often experience, which can negatively impact their college experience.

Garrett, graduate master’s student in counseling and student development, currently works for the Department of Housing and Dining Services as part of her graduate program and is fulfilling her practicum requirement with the KAWSE office. She said the hope behind this event is that those who show up walk away feeling valued as members of a supportive community.

“As Morgan mentioned, it can be really isolating in college, and I think especially with COVID the past couple of years … it’s been really challenging for a lot of students,” Garrett said. “And so, I think just finding a space … to have a connection with someone else that lasts beyond this event I would say is the overall goal.”

Ayana Belk, senior in landscape architecture, is one student who attended this event. As a member of an underrepresented population at K-State, Belk said she hopes to reveal within her thesis — due this spring — the various barriers, ways to support and future recommendations for Black students in their landscape architecture programs.

“There are only two Black [landscape architecture] students at K-State,” Belk said, “and I’m one of them.”

Her thesis will include the experiences of Black students in landscape architecture at K-State and other universities as well.

Belk’s long-term goal is to launch a non-profit organization focusing on design education for K-12 students. During the Women in STEM event, Greene presented several opportunities offered by KAWSE that fit Belk’s future ambitions.

Greene encourages students of all genders to attend events organized by KAWSE, although the organization targets women specifically.

“Our office is always trying to be more inclusive,” Greene said, “and so all of our events and programs … anything that KAWSE offers, is always open to anybody who wants to come.”