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#Scio13 Diversity Session: North Carolina offers support to LGBT students

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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On Thursday, January 31, 2013 I will be co-moderating a ScienceOnline Session on Diversity in the Sciences with Alberto Roca of

The audience will surely have many individuals interested in this topic as we explore many different avenues of diversity and inclusion in sciences and higher education. I pleased to share that the audience will definitely include Justine Hollingshead Director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Center (GLBT Center) at North Carolina State University joining us for the session.

In preparation for the session, she shares with the Science Online community the goals and aims of the North Carolina GLBT Center in this guest post.


At NC State we have seen an increase in the number of “out” GLBT identified students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields.  The closet door is opening and as our students are more comfortable it will be evident that career and professional interests span all disciplines.  Ironically the online world is where many #GLBT individuals feel the most comfortable and safe.  It is where individuals go for information, to stay in touch, to explore, and to express themselves.

The NCState GLBT Center uses technology and online resources every day in meeting the needs of the community.  We have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, actively use a resource called Google Talkbin allowing someone to ask an
anonymous question, encourage blogging among students, and will be going live
with an App (Apple and Android) later this spring.

I think it is easy to forget invisible communities like sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc. in large part because many view those as personal attributes.  However, it is very powerful when you include the whole person, helping to allow someone to feel like they really matter.  We often pigeon hole people into the notion that they cannot be “out” and definitely not in the hard sciences.  This is simply untrue.

There seem to be more and more online resources and ways to share information.  Minority science bloggers absolutely play a role in paving the way for those that are still not at a safe or comfortable place of being out.  This also transcends to ally science bloggers.  Allies are extremely important and if they are connected within their industry it often supersedes their sexual orientation.  We all want to see or be
around someone like us.  That includes the online world.  As more and more
people feel comfortable being out, we will have a true representation of diversity within the science communities.

When it comes to mentoring, credibility is an absolute must. For me as the Director of the GLBT Center I try to vet individuals that I know are safe and that our students can reach out to, regardless of discipline.  For the GLBT community it comes down to awareness, trust, and willingness to spend the time with the individual.  As for encouraging students in the STEM fields, it is important to encourage them not to walk away from a challenge and to not always attribute a difficulty to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The biggest challenges I see on campus NC State and in other arenas is getting the word out AND having the time to do it.  To be a truly successful blogger or social
media enthusiast, in any discipline, are people that are doing it daily and have
amassed a following that count on information.  I think it is also important to be diverse in your content in an intentional way.

I am looking forward to spending time with people in person and virtually over the coming week.  It is a unique opportunity for me personally and professionally as a baby boomer who never touched a computer until 1988, typing college papers on a Brother 3 typewriter, and handwriting in a paper journal.  I have realized in my role with the NC State GLBT Center that I need to meet the needs of all constituency groups and one amazing tool is social media!

You can follow me on Twitter @jholli99 or the Center @GLBTCenter.

Look for Justine at #scio13

Justine Hollingshead has twenty-five years of
success working as an administrator in Higher Education on various college campuses across the country, in addition to the business sector as well.

She offers particular expertise in diversity education, training, leadership, supervision, programming, event planning, and administration, with an in-depth working knowledge and
passion regarding the issues facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender
(GLBT) community.  Justine earned her Bachelor’s degree from Slippery Rock
University in Communication, her Master’s degree in Higher Education Student
Personnel Administration from the University of Maryland, College Park and has
completed a ten-week comprehensive business training program with the Council
for Entrepreneurial Development in North Carolina.

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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