Stems to Branches: A Wellness Initiative for Women of Color in S.T.E.M.
A Peacemaking Project by Marleny N.
What is the injustice we are solving?
This initiative aims to build and strengthen the community of women of color within the S.T.E.M. field (Science,Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at Brandeis University. Stems to Branches will explore the history of resilience of people of color within S.T.E.M., cultivate a healing space to share decolonized methods of achieving wellness, and work towards destigmatizing mental health within communities of color. In addition, one of my main goals for this collective is to bring visibility to women of color on our campus so that future generations at Brandeis can avoid this feeling of isolation in a Predominantly White Institution. Establishing this collective will promote unity amongst women of color, and build a safe space that future generations of STEM women of color can use to build an ethic of care.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of Stigmatizing Mental Health in communities of color and lack of representation/ visibility of Women of Color in Predominantly White Institutions
we will address Systematic Oppression, Racial and Gender Inequality within Academic Institutions
by Building community between Women of Color in S.T.E.M to increase visibility, discussing decolonized methods of healing from Mental Health as well as the history of resilience of people of color within S.T.E.M.
Our Project Plan:
- To decrease feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety amongst women of color pursuing STEM at Brandeis.
- To increase visibility of women of color pursuing STEM on campus.
- To increase awareness of the history of resilience of People of color in STEM
We will increase my / our compassion by...
- Fostering a community across grades - Giving access to knowledge on ways to heal and practice self- care. - Engaging in self-care/ healing as a community. - Allowing participants to feel more capable of resilience in the face of challenges. - Conducting a Visibility Action Project at Brandeis University that involves displaying pictures and autobiographies of Women of Color in S.T.E.M. all over campus.
How will you show courage?
I will begin by acknowledging that I do not know everything there is to know on the matter at hand. I am here to learn and build with my community. I will show courage by being an advocate for my community when we are in need. This means, taking action on resources we may be lacking and spaces we want to cultivate.
How will you collaborate with others?
This initiative is a collaborative effort in building a community and ethic of care within Women of Color pursuing S.T.E.M. I will be facilitating the meetings, however, each participant is responsible for engaging and contributing their ideas on how we can best create and build this space.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
Feedback from participants of my initiative is something I plan on constantly asking for and receiving. This project is as much theirs as it is mine. I plan on conducting both physical and online surveys to make sure the space can be as accessible and productive as possible.
- Facilitate our first meeting on March 1st, 2018.
- Conduct Visibility Action Project throughout the month of March.
- Create more Social Media platforms to promote the space.
- Conduct an online survey at the end of march to receive feedback from the community.
- Hold a collaborative and celebratory meeting with other organizations of color at Brandeis University that holds a space for cultural foods, dancing, and community.
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
Throughout the entire process of creating this initiative and exhibition, I progressively learned that there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. I learned that women of color at this university are in need of the proper resources and support system to build community, achieve holistic wellness, and succeed academically. This, however, can’t happen without a reevaluation of the University’s allocation of resources, demographic, and treatment of people of color on this campus. I learned, additionally, that we must continue to honor and celebrate women of color, especially when they are found in spaces that may not be the most welcoming and supportive.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
I think, overall, as a community, there is a wider acknowledgment on how we each need to be held accountable for building community as an act of healing. I think folks are definitely more cognizant of the ways that their mental health have been impacted by institutions such as our university, and I think that their has definitely been an increase in the visibility of women of color in STEM on our campus.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
This is a rough estimate, however, I think a lot more people were impacted by the project because, in addition to the meetings I held, my visibility project exhibition to honor and celebrate women of color in S.T.E.M. at Brandeis was ready and viewed by so many of Brandeis' staff, faculty, and students.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
I learned more simply by interacting with my own community and hearing their input and what some of their stories hold. It was an amazing experience to be able to take pictures of these women and be a able to hold space for them to share their experiences. While this is a concept I had already been familiar with, I learned that the imposter syndrome is something that not only do a lot of women of color experience, but people of color within predominantly white spaces like Brandeis.
What did your team learn?
While most of the work I did was independent, when I would work with a team, we learn that listening and proper allocation of responsibilities is always key to working efficiently.
What challenges did your team overcome?
Making sure to advertise the initiative so that people would show up. In the beginning attendance was pretty low, however, after reaching out in person and over social media, and checking in with folks, attendance began to increase. Making sure that the days and times that these meetings are being held is best for most participants is also key.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
I had asked multiple of my peers to help with outreach for my visibility exhibition project and got staff involved as well.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
Be patient and do not give up, if this is something you really want to do. Network! Network! Network! Get support from your peers, from mentors, etc, because while you may think you can do things all on your own, its always best when you have a team!