By Lauren Mar ’25
After Scripps’ Women in Science club fell by the wayside during pandemic-induced remote instruction, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Bethany Caulkins reached out to a group of students from her physical chemistry course to restart the club in summer 2022. During their initial meetings, members decided they wanted to uplift both women and those marginalized in the field of STEM. Thus, the Women and Minority Voices in STEM (WAMVIS) club was born.
“We wanted to make sure that this was a club where anybody in STEM can come and try to build community and hopefully find their people and other scientists,” says Professor Caulkins.
Women and Minority Voices in STEM is one of The Claremont Colleges’ CLORGs (student-run clubs and organizations). While open to students from all 5Cs, a majority of its members and leadership are from the W.M. Keck Science Department—currently shared between Scripps, Pitzer, and Claremont McKenna—and from Scripps specifically.
WAMVIS president Micaela Jun ’22, a molecular biology major, says, “WAMVIS has increased my involvement with the STEM community. I’ve gained a bunch of new experiences and perspectives from faculty and from my peers that I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.” Though this is the CLORG’s first year running, WAMVIS has already held several programs for STEM students of marginalized identities. Earlier in the semester, the club hosted an alumni panel with Keck Science Scripps alums who shared their post-undergraduate journeys with current students. More recently, the CLORG held a dinner with Scripps Associate Professor of Chemistry Nancy Williams, who discussed her experience coming out as a trans woman in her career. As their final event of the fall semester, WAMVIS held a panel of Keck faculty who shared their academic journeys in STEM.
“Graduate schools, industry jobs, academia—it’s all much harsher than it is here [at The Claremont Colleges],” reflects Jun. “So I think our club focuses on community building so that you can have people who will support you even after we graduate.”
Caulkins echoes this sentiment. She says that Keck is an anomaly among STEM departments for its majority percentage of women-identifying students and faculty. “In science especially, community is really important. And so building that was our goal,” she says.
Because of Keck’s gender diversity, Jun and Caulkins agree that Scripps students receive a unique and fortunate STEM education. “We have something very special here,” says Jun. “And we need to work on diversity and equality not only when it comes to women, but also to people of color, trans, non-binary, international students—all kinds of communities who deserve to be better seen and heard.”
By uplifting the voices of students in STEM of marginalized identities, WAMVIS centers their experiences and provides them with an empowering community not always guaranteed in a post-graduate STEM fields. In building this community, WAMVIS also equips students to enact the change they wish to see in STEM.
“We’re going to be instituting a lot of those diversifying changes as we move into the working world,” says Jun. “By increasing visibility at Scripps, we’re providing ourselves with the tools to make change in the future for us, too.”