Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Inclusion and Social Development

First Advisor

Meghan Elizabeth Kallman

Second Advisor

Edmond Bertschinger

Third Advisor

Lisa Gonsalves


Within the academic fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine (STEM), there is a high value placed on scientific expertise, work at any cost, and the ideals of objectivity and meritocracy. Meanwhile, there is mounting empirical data highlighting pervasive inequities and injustices in these fields. This glaring disconnect between the assumption of meritocracy and the reality of inequity has been shown to perpetuate a lack of diversity and to exacerbate issues of harassment, discrimination, and exclusion within the STEM fields. Using a theoretical and methodological framework of intersectionality and transdisciplinarity, this project aimed to fill a gap in the research regarding our knowledge and understanding about the experiences of queer and trans STEM students who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (QTBIPOC). The goal of this investigation was to explore which aspects of the STEM climate lead to disparities in the academic success and overall well-being of QTBIPOC students and to provide insight on what can be done to improve the STEM campus climate. To achieve this goal, I undertook a comparative study, employing mixed-methods and triangulating quantitative data from campus-wide quality of life surveys at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with quantitative and qualitative data from an additional survey and interview protocol. Findings from this inquiry revealed that QTBIPOC students have experienced significantly more bias and bigotry than their majority-identity peers and that STEM-specific cultural norms, MIT institutional barriers, and negative environmental phenomena combine to have a detrimental impact on QTBIPOC students’ health, wellness, sense of belonging, future, career, and ability to speak out against such harms. Study findings suggest that a combination of resources, spaces, and communities that celebrate intersecting identities can help QTBIPOC students to thrive. Findings also outline critical systemic changes that are needed in order to improve the campus climate experience for QTBIPOC students. These findings highlight the need for a more intersectional approach to research on complex social issues. In addition, this project contributes to the body of research that is working to eliminate institutional barriers, so that the next generation of STEM professionals all feel a sense of wholeness, are flourishing within the STEM environment, and are thus better equipped to address the most pressing scientific challenges of our time.


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