Students spark discussion about the “Culture of STEM”

Sruthi Meka, Staff Reporter

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SPARC [conversations], a student group, held its first-ever scholarship competition on Nov. 12. The event began with a TED Talk-style conference that featured 12 speakers from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, and culminated with SPARC [scholarships], an event which featured six student speakers competing for a $1,000 scholarship.

Third-year student Maggie McClarren and first-year student Diya Ramanathan placed first and second, respectively, and will advance to the final round of the competition, to be held on April 15. The top two student speakers from the next two SPARC [scholarships] events will also advance to the final round, where the six speakers will compete for more scholarship prizes.

The scholarship competition, themed “Culture of STEM,” served as a platform for participants to speak about underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The speakers discussed a range of issues within the topic, including the role of women and other minority groups in STEM, as well as the influence of socioeconomic status on underrepresented groups.

“It was awesome, it gives you literally a platform to talk about these issues that we face,” said McClaren, who received the $1,000 scholarship. “And I know that Case is super open-minded and tolerant and everyone’s great here, but sometimes we need this kind of thing to showcase how people are feeling and what are things we can do.”

SPARC, an acronym for society, politics, art, research and community, is meant to foster public discourse among students, faculty members and community members. The founding president, alumna Elle Marcus, was featured as a speaker in the SPARC [conference] portion of the event this past weekend.

“It was really fun to see it from the other side, so last year, of course I was the one running it,” said Marcus, who spoke about cross-cultural perspectives on body image. “It was cool to see how far the organization has come.”

Deborah Gil, the current president of the organization, hopes to increase attendance at the next scholarship competition, scheduled to be held on Jan. 30.

“I wish the turnout would have been a little better, but the quality of the speeches and the conversations that it started was more than I could ever hope for,” said Gil. She also said that they tried to incorporate diverse members from both CWRU and the general Cleveland community.

“I’m really excited to keep talking to people about issues that not only I face, but people all around this campus face, all around this community, all around this world face,” said McClaren. “And hopefully … [this will] chip away at the STEM culture that is prohibiting people from entering [the field].”