Student Org Spotlight: STEM First Year Initiative Published: April 13, 2021 By: Jennifer Chung Graduate student organizations are an essential part of UC Berkeley’s culture. In this article, we highlight STEM*FYI, an organization for all underrepresented STEM scholars. Thanks to Haider Ali Bhatti for providing written responses to our questions. What is your group’s mission? We are dedicated to increasing the success and retention of historically underrepresented students among all graduate STEM fields at UC Berkeley. We welcome all first-year and continuing STEM scholars of color, women, LGBTQIA+, low-income, first-generation, disabled, and undocumented students to form an alliance with advanced graduate STEM ambassadors who are committed to building a strong and diverse community of future scientists. What events or activities does your group focus on? STEM*FYI consists of informal gatherings, workshops, social events, and the opportunity to build a strong, diverse community of graduate STEM scholars. We engage in resource sharing, community-building, and career and professional development opportunities, all with diversity, equity, and inclusion top-of-mind. At STEM*FYI, we are always looking to collaborate on events with other campus organizations that are aligned with our mission. Our program is built on an “ambassador” model of near-peer mentorship to establish a community of practice and support. Our ambassadors represent the core of STEM*FYI and come from a range of diverse backgrounds and experiences. The cohort of 15 ambassadors span 11 STEM departments and include 14 ambassadors who are underrepresented in STEM or identify as people of color, as well as six first-generation students. Read more about our ambassadors. If you are interested in collaborating with us for a future event, you can contact us at STEM-FYI@berkeley.edu. Who do you look for to be members of your group? How can graduate students get involved with your group? Are you a first-year or continuing graduate student in STEM? Interested in receiving free mentorship and guidance from a diverse cohort of advanced graduate students? Want to be part of a cross-departmental, community-building effort for underrepresented graduate STEM scholars? Fill out this Google form and join us in our effort to make the graduate STEM experience more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for ALL students. How has your group adapted or how have your activities changed over the last year (due to COVID or otherwise)? From discussions with graduate STEM students, especially those early in their journey here at Berkeley, we saw that there was an overwhelming need for community and support amidst all the difficulties caused by the pandemic and unprecedented social unrest from the past year. In our efforts to promote community, our Fall 2020 events were mainly geared towards casual, social get-togethers over Zoom. This included fun and professionally hosted events like our Virtual Halloween Party with LAGSES (Latino/a Association of Graduate Students in Engineering and Science) and Virtual Holiday Party with FGLI Grads (First-Generation/Low-Income Grads), our Holiday Self-Care Day with SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science), and our End-of-Semester Social Hour with the Berkeley Compass Project. Additionally, in our efforts to support graduate STEM students, we launched a series of $500 STEM*FYI Grants which included a COVID-19 Student Aid Grant, a Professional Development Grant, and a Technology Grant. In Fall 2020, we awarded over 15 grants to graduate STEM students. You can learn more about our STEM*FYI Grants and see how they have helped students on our grants webpage. Any last things you’d like the grad student community to know about you? STEM*FYI is funded through the PPG Foundation. PPG knows first-hand the importance of a skilled science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce to create stronger, more sustainable communities. The PPG Foundation aims to accelerate pathways for diversity in STEM fields and help the next generation of STEM leaders to meet the collective challenges of our society quickly, creatively and effectively. PPG has teamed up with the University of California, Berkeley to develop the STEM*FYI program, connecting first-year, graduate-level Black students, students of color, women and other underrepresented student populations with mentors and a support network. Together, the PPG Foundation and the STEM*FYI program promote inclusion, provide professional development, and build bridges to close STEM diversity and gender gaps and widen the possibilities and progress that a diverse STEM field holds. Visit the STEM*FYI homepage for more information, or to join. About the Author: Jennifer Chung is a J.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and is a Professional Development Liaison in the GradPro office of the Graduate Division.