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Ohio State engineering club aims to support LGBT students

Matt Korey, an Ohio State engineering student, was surprised when he was told by a campus career services office that using a certain term on his résumé could limit him.

“We have a thing in engineering called Engineering Career Services,” Korey said. “When I went in for (a) résumé review, when they saw there was Engineering Allies in my résumé, they told me I (needed) to be more vague about the group, that I shouldn’t use the term LGBT because it would be limiting (to) my job market.”

But Korey’s new student organization, Engineering Allies, is looking to change that mindset.

Engineering Allies aims to create an environment where straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender engineering students can network with students and professionals in a comfortable setting, according to the College of Engineering’s website.

Korey, president of Engineering Allies and a third-year in biomedical engineering, said that kind of safe environment was needed.

“I was walking out of one of my classes last semester — this is right before I started the group — someone called his friend a fag … right in front of me,” Korey said. “The College of Engineering (is) trying to promote diversity within the college so they provide resources to a lot of the minorities … but I realized maybe last year, we didn’t really have anything for LGBT students at all.”

Corinne Matyas, undergraduate studies coordinator in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, said student organizations like Engineering Allies are important.

“Even within OSU’s inclusive environment, there have still been instances when students have seen or felt insensitivity or ignorance,” Matyas said in an email. “It’s groups like Engineering Allies that help make sure insensitivity stays the exception, not the rule.”

Angie Wellman, intercultural specialist at the OSU Multicultural Center and liaison to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students, said she appreciates what Engineering Allies is working to do.

“Allies (in general) are some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBTQ movement,” Wellman said in an email. “Not only do allies provide support to people in the coming-out process, they can also help build bridges toward understanding the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect. Any organization that is built around creating safe and inclusive spaces for all students is a positive thing for everyone.”

Andrew Cargill, a third-year in French and marketing, co-president of Better Together at OSU and a member of Pride OSU, both of which work to increase acceptance among students, said he thinks Engineering Allies is “a fantastic idea.”

“As large as engineering at OSU is … having groups like this where people of a certain minority can get together, work together and support one another as they go through the four-year process will do a lot to help attract more people to the major and make it a better and more safe space overall,” Cargill said.

Korey said educating people on this topic is one of the club’s goals.

“We are trying to think of diversity courses that can be taught at OSU. We are trying to have a diversity training requirement in the first-year seminar … We are also looking into (doing) things within the (freshman) survey class,” Korey said. “(We want) to get people to talk about the issues. The best way to (become) accepted is to talk. If you don’t share your opinions ever, then you will never learn.”

This coming April, Korey said Engineering Allies plans to hold a diversity discussion to teach people how to ask and deal with questions like “Are you gay?” appropriately without offending or hurting anyone.

Korey also said he wants to be sure students know supporting the LGBT community won’t necessarily hold them back.

“There are a lot of companies out there (that) have resources for their LGBT employees,” Korey said. “So we are looking into (trying) to find those companies so we can get them in contact with our students.”

He said overall, he plans to stand up for LGBT engineering students.

“I get this a lot, like ‘Why? Why you are doing this? I don’t see the need for it,’” Korey said. “But people don’t realize that when (the) minority (doesn’t) apply to you, you won’t realize it.”

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