U student Natalie Blanton is an advocate for animal and human rights, and works to spread awareness on campus.

Catalyzing Change for LGBTQ Community

What is metallurgical engineering? Lauryn Hansen laughs; she gets asked that question often. “I went into college knowing I was going to study something that would offer me long-term stability, not necessarily to explore my passions,” Hansen said.

A first-generation college student and currently a senior at the U, Lauryn has always been interested in scientific problem-solving. She has been published in multiple scientific journals, presented her research to Utah state legislators and has completed internships with Newmont Mining, Rio Tinto Kennecott and various laboratories on campus.

Hansen extends elements of change and creation beyond just the laboratory. Her experience in the STEM fields, which continue to marginalize queer women, has prompted her to seek institutional change.

“Extracurriculars became a means of survival in trying to find community and understanding,” Hansen said about what prompted her to become a student organizer and advocate.

She was one of the first student co-chairs of the U’s Pride Week planning committee and is the president of the U’s oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology and Mathematics) chapter. Her successes include attracting notable trans* activist and actress Laverne Cox to lecture at the U, gaining Pride Week an annual line-item budget and advocating for Rebecca Kling, a trans* activist and speaker, to be included in Women’s Week at the U.

Hansen’s many efforts led her to receiving the prestigious national Point Scholar award, which recognizes exceptional LGBTQ students who are creating visibility and change in their communities.

“The most valuable part of being at the U has been the relationships I have made,” Hansen said. “I’ve often been too fearful to stand up for myself, but now I have a network of new family and friends that support and empower me.”

She hopes to continue in making both identity and political bounds in STEM. “I’ve redefined success as being a community justice leader and making a difference,” Hansen said.

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