Emily Bradshaw, a fifth-year mechanical student, is looking to provide a safe space for queer engineering students.
“In STEM-heavy colleges, even if [students] are out, they may not want to show it as much in the hallways [and] in the library just because of the atmosphere of the college,” Bradshaw said.
“Students need to realize how big the queer community is even within our own College of Engineering.”
The University of Saskatchewan EngiQueers celebrates and advocates for diversity and inclusivity within the college. The group’s goal is to give students assurance that they are accepted and free to express themselves within the campus and beyond.
EngiQueers Canada is a non-profit organization that recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusivity in engineering, founded in 2013 by a group of engineering students from McMaster University. Since then, EngiQueers have spread nationwide and has established a growing number of chapters at engineering schools.
The local chapter began with fourth-year mechanical engineering student Regan Wilson. They have been working on the group for a few years after being inspired from attending one of the many conferences offered within the college, although the group had lost steam until recently.
This year, Bradshaw and Wilson were able to attend the Conference on Diversity in Engineering by the CFES. Wilson says the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students provided them with the experience of meeting great people.
“There were a lot of minorities represented [at the event],” Bradshaw said. “But there were also quite a few people who would not be considered as minorities who attended just so they could learn.”
Learning and seeing other groups from different schools promoting LGBTQ2S+ individuals and other minorities showed Wilson the importance of forming a community. Afterwards, both students, along with engineering physics student Noah Hladun, were determined to reboot the chapter.
With the limitations and restrictions of the pandemic, the group came up with different ways to reach out and connect with students. Despite the current restraints, they remain confident that this year is the best time to build their following.
The group is primary using Discord to provide students with events, meetings and updates. Anybody who expresses interest in joining the Discord group can do so without the pressure of joining the group itself, and simply enjoy the benefits that come with it such as participating in game nights.
Bradshaw says that things are going well and that using an online platform such as Discord has its positives, like increased accessibility and anonymity.
“You can use whatever name you wish to be called. There would be lots of people who wouldn’t be out and open but would like to be a part of the group and in the community,” Bradshaw said.
As for what’s next for the group, Bradshaw stresses the importance of growing the group past their 15 official members. Currently, the group is run by upper level students, which means that the need for new members is around the corner. Although EngiQueer is an engineering-based group, they welcome all undergraduate and graduate students at the U of S.
“This term, one of the target goals is to generate engagement amongst students and fundraise money to become a ratified group in May,” Bradshaw said.