Introducing GeMA

New student organization in Aero brings together gender minority graduate students

Michigan Aerospace has been fortunate to benefit from a diverse student body, student organizations and teams that come together each and every year. One of the newest student organizations was developed to hone in on the diversities within the walls of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Building. 

The Gender Minorities in Aerospace or GeMA student organization formed in the fall of 2023 to support and build community among graduate students and postdocs in the department. The group of students formed the organization to center around students who felt they are part of a minority group because of their gender. 

Members from GeMA having a group meeting at the TeaHaus

We caught up with GeMA to learn more about their goals and what they are looking to focus on in the coming years.

What is the goal/mission behind GeMA:

A lot of the work in decreasing the gender disparity in engineering is done by increasing the number of students entering engineering through programs targeted at high schoolers and younger students. While these programs are vital and a contributing factor to why many of us are in engineering, we think it needs to be paired with support for those students once they get to engineering programs. This support looks different for different groups, and we felt graduate students and postdocs have unique needs that we could address by providing resources and building community. 

When was it officially founded/started:

GeMA filed all our paperwork and officially became recognized as a student organization in Fall 2023. We started meeting and discussing our needs and the steps to become a student organization about a year before that once we heard about similar groups in other engineering departments. 

What does community mean to GeMA:

Community is when you can connect to someone with similar experiences and feel less alone. In a graduate program that is over 85% male, many students feel isolated in classes and research groups, so connecting with others in the same situation can be really beneficial.

Who is open to joining:

GeMA is open to all graduate students and postdocs affiliated with the Aerospace Department who are gender minorities or their allies.

Is GeMA open to other students outside of the Aerospace Department:

Most of our members are in Aerospace, but we do have some situations where a student in another department has an advisor in Aerospace or has done Aerospace coursework and feels connected to the department. 

What has GeMA worked on so far: 

GeMA has held a variety of social events for members to connect and feel more at home in the department as well as events that connect with similar groups, like WiRE+ (Women+ in Robotics Engineering) and WAA (Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics). We worked with WAA to create a mentoring program where undergraduate and masters students, who are interested in getting a PhD, can meet with a current PhD student. We also have worked on events with other Aero student organizations, like the department’s 2024 MLK day event and 2024 women’s history month event. We also want to connect to and learn from professors in the department, and were fortunate enough to have a lunch chat with Prof. Gökçin Çınar recently.

What projects or events will GeMA student organization be working on the future:

We want to expand on efforts to support PhD students through their preliminary exams, as that can be a particularly stressful milestone. We also are working on professional development events that are relevant to graduate students like conference preparation. We would like to connect more with masters students in the department, see what needs they have, and how we can support each other. 

Any fun facts about GeMA:

It took us several meetings and an intense voting process to come up with a name, and had a lot of interesting reject options. We wanted to be inclusive on two fronts: we aren’t just a graduate organization and we aren’t just a women’s organization.

Our first meetings were very bare bones, with homemade brownies to entice people to come, but everyone was engaged and excited to start something.

Interested in GeMA?

Reach out to the GeMA board if you are interested in learning more and becoming a member. Their board can be reached at: [email protected]