Two members of the Central Intelligence Agency came to campus to speak on Tuesday evening to the Hopkins chapter of oSTEM about their experiences as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people working in the fields of science and technology.
“The reason we’re here is if you are perhaps interested in a CIA career, don’t self-select out of that opportunity just because you think that the agency might not be a place to work if you are LGBT,” Kristen, a chemist at the CIA who declined to give her last name, said.
She began by talking about her experiences, both as an employee at the CIA and as a member of the LGBT community. She majored in chemistry at James Madison University and then studied in a polymer chemistry program at Virginia Tech. Later, as a CIA employee, she decided not to discuss her sexuality until recently when she came out and joined the Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Employees (ANGLE), an LGBT group at the CIA.
“I have the ability to potentially have a direct impact on things that are happening in the world,” she said about her job at the CIA.
Roger, another CIA agent who also declined to give his last name, spoke as well. He, in contrast, was open about his sexual orientation for years and was undaunted when people expressed disapproval of his lifestyle.
The two CIA employees spoke to about 15 members of oSTEM in Gilman Hall. They brought markers, pens and pamphlets containing information about careers at the CIA. oSTEM is a national society that is aimed at integrating LGBT students into careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. The University’s chapter, which has around 30 members, is relatively new.
“The chapter of Hopkins was founded last year,” Allison Tse, a graduate student studying mechanical engineering, said. “We didn’t officially start having meetings until this year.”
Tse has been a member of the oSTEM board since its founding. She is now the vice president of the chapter.
Earlier this year, Hopkins alumni who are currently employed or in graduate school addressed oSTEM members and described their experiences as LGBT people in the STEM fields. The group also attended an oSTEM conference in October hosted by the oSTEM National Board at Google’s offices in New York. 12 oSTEM members from Hopkins attended the conference.
“I’m very big on queer activism, and as a science major, I guess I never really thought that you could combine the science fields and LGBT stuff, and so I thought this was a nice mesh,” freshman Rebecca Rivera, a member of oSTEM, said. “I went to the conference in New York, and it was really kind of inspiring because you really can combine LGBT activism and still be in the science fields.”
Junior Dillon Ward, an oSTEM board member who is in charge of community outreach, played a major role in planning Tuesday’s event.
Last year, Ward met Michael Barber, the LGBT community outreach and liaison program manager at the CIA, at a Chicago conference called “Out for Work.” After starting the Hopkins oSTEM chapter, Ward stayed in touch with Barber, who later helped to bring the LGBT CIA employees to campus.
“[Barber] expressed interest in wanting to come and chat with our group once we started it,” Ward said.
Senior Edwin Arzvaga, who is not an oSTEM member, also attended the event. He is a member of DSAGA, the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance.
“I’m pretty interested in the CIA and I feel that people out there, because they’re gay, feel that they don’t have the same opportunities as people that are straight,” Arzvaga said. “[The two speakers] are out in the CIA, and I feel it’s good to know that it doesn’t matter who you are; you can have the same opportunities,” he said.
Overall, Ward enjoyed listening to the CIA members speak about their experiences.
“[The CIA] actually [has] a lot of opportunities for STEM majors that people don’t know about,” Ward said. “People often think the government is pretty scary, especially for LGBT people...it’s cool to know there are people like us that work at the CIA.”