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Club Spotlight: ETA (Equality Through Awareness)

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Written by Jacqueline Feuerborn

Posted on 27 April 2014

Some of the clubs on campus have been here for longer than anyone can remember but there are also some newer ones that are popping up all of the time. One of these new clubs is ETA (Equality Through Awareness). They began in the early Fall so they are still completing their first year as a club on the Colorado School of Mines campus. ETA was created by a group of women in the Physics department. When the Oredigger talked to their new president, Libby Booton, about what ETA was she said, "ETA (Equality Through Awareness) is a group that focuses on promoting diversity in STEM fields, mainly Physics." There are three main things that ETA does: discussion groups, speakers, and their mentoring program.

ETA discussion groups are held every other Monday. During these discussion groups, a small group meets to discuss an article that relates to issues faced by minorities in STEM fields. "These are closed door discussions without faculty members to create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts." said Libby Booton. At these discussions they have discussed everything from impostor syndrome to dating within the Physics Department to the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). These discussions are always lively with people constantly throwing in their own opinions and personal experiences with different things.

Libby Booton was eager to talk about the different speakers that are brought in to Colorado School of Mines to present. "We bring in two to three speakers a semester to talk about different issues that members of ETA are interested in." ETA bases who will be brought in on what their members are interested in and who they can get to talk about these topics. One of the most exciting speakers for Libby Booton is Penny Pettigrew from NASA. She came in on Friday, April 25th to give to different talks.

The first of these talks is "I'm Not an Astronaut, but I Get to Play One at Work!" which focused on the International Space Station, Microgravity Science, and what it is like to support the astronauts living and working on the space station in real time. The second talk was more based on what ETA is all about. It is called "From Mines to NASA: The Hurdles and Triumphs of Following a Dream" and during it, Penny Pettigrew will tell her story of how she got from Mines to NASA while "facing many challenges, some adversity, and changes in direction along the way."

The third thing that ETA does is mentoring. The mentoring is meant exclusively for Women in Physics. They do a big kick off event for all women in physics at the beginning of each semester, with the one this semester featuring Mexican food and lots of fun games and just some general chatting. Throughout the rest of the year, there are then other smaller events that are mostly social. These events include watching chick flicks in Meyer 220 on a Friday night to standing in line in Denver for donuts for a few hours.

At the moment, the goal of the mentoring program is to introduce lower level undergraduate students to higher level students who can tell them about their experiences. One student in ETA said, "I don't know how well I would have coped this semester without the other ETA girls to keep me sane. They are an amazing group of people and I love going to different events with them because it is just so much fun!" As attendance at these events increases, mentoring groups will be developed that consist of a graduate student and two undergraduates of different years.

ETA is a great club that is sure to have a long and prosperous life here at Mines. While they might just be a group that focuses mainly on women in physics, as Booten said, they "hope to connect with other groups on campus pertaining to minorities in STEM." ETA is definitely a club to keep an eye on as they grow on campus. So whether a Physics major looking to join or just someone curious, keep an eye out for all the events that ETA will be putting on in the coming semesters.