UConn hosts second annual 'Queer Science Conference' for high schoolers to 'celebrate science – and themselves'

Nearly 60 high school students attended the joint 'Science' and Pride Month celebration, which attempted 'to give queer and trans youth role models in various STEM fields.'

Ahead of the event, UConn's Rainbow Center warned that 'Legislation across the country...is attempting to render LGBTQIA+ communities invisible and erase our existence.'

On June 4, the University of Connecticut (UConn) celebrated Pride Month by hosting its second annual “Queer Science Conference,” which is offered “to give queer and trans youth role models in various STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] fields.”

According to an online recap, the one-day event “connected high school students with LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students at UConn who work in STEM disciplines, offering community and mentorship as well as state-of-the-art laboratory experiences and opportunities for hands-on science demonstrations.”

Another description in promotion of the event stated: “In the wake of new and passed anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation sweeping across the country, especially anti-trans legislation, it is critical that we support the queer and trans youth in our state.

The webpage also characterized the conference as “a celebration of LGBTQIA+ identity, community, and most importantly, SCIENCE!!” 

[RELATED: University hosts ‘Queer Research Day’ to ‘challenge normalcy’]

The conference was organized and sponsored by UConn organizations such as the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion and the Rainbow Center, in addition to oSTEM — a group that “empowers LGBTQ+ people in STEM to succeed personally, academically, and professionally by cultivating environments and communities that nurture innovation, leadership, and advocacy.”

In a recent message commemorating Pride Month, Rainbow Center Director Kelsey O’Neil and UConn Chief Diversity Officer Frank Tuitt acknowledged: “Legislation across the country, including in the state of Connecticut, is attempting to render LGBTQIA+ communities invisible and erase our existence. As we celebrate Pride, we encourage everyone to resist this attempt at erasure by being visible.”

“We are here. We are proud. We will not be erased,” the letter continued. 

Last year’s Queer Science Conference featured 43 high school students and 13 members of the UConn community in attendance to “celebrate science – and themselves.”

[RELATED: PSU prof posts pic of ‘queer ecologies’ course that ‘rethinks the nature of nature’]

The Vergnano Institute told Campus Reform that, “This year there were about 60 attendees who signed up for the conference and we anticipate that number to grow as more people hear about the opportunity.” 

It continued: “Since these students are in high school and are minors, our staff is required to go through UConn’s minor protection train which teaches our program staff all about how to work effectively and safely with minors.” 

As part of the institute’s policies, parents were required to sign consent forms if they were content with their children being photographed.

“[W]e had many students telling us they had a fantastic experience during the conference, and they can’t wait for next year,” the institute’s representative wrote. “[W]e are looking forward to continuing to host the Queer Science conference annually and hope that more students get involved each year.”

In February, Campus Reform reported that the Rainbow Center was seeking participants for an upcoming drag show in which they asked student applicants: “What are your pronouns out of drag?,” and “What are your pronouns in drag?”

Campus Reform reached out to all parties listed and will update this story accordingly.