College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Students of Color Network provides a sense of belonging

Iowa State senior in agricultural engineering, Julián Canabal says the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) Students of Color Network (ABESCN) has been a key to connecting with the faculty and staff of the ABE department as well as with his peers of color.

“It can be very validating to be in a room with other students who face similar challenges on campus,” Canabal said. “The fact that ABESCN exists, shows the ABE department cares for their students with minoritized identities.” ABESCN aims to provide support, resources, networking, leadership, a safe space, and learning opportunities for students of color within four academic programs.

Elaine Phompheng, ABE student services specialist, along with colleagues, led the development of ABESCN. ABESCN was created in 2018 based on student feedback to improve the department’s cultural environment.

“In past semesters, due to student concerns about the overall campus climate, we held discussions with ABESCN members, the ABE advising staff, and a small number of faculty invited by the students,” Phompheng said. “Future efforts of the group will be to continue to strengthen relationships between students of color and ABE faculty and provide more opportunities for our students to make industry connections.”

ABE faculty meets with students to create a bond.

Canabal says that ABESCN contributes to an important sense of belonging and engagement, but that there’s always room for inclusion improvement.

“Students can also do their part by not getting defensive when being corrected, asking questions, and researching culturally sensitive topics,” Canabal said. “Moreover, the hiring of diverse staff allows a diverse group of people to see themselves in the people they look up to for help.”

Canabal says that since his arrival at ISU, inclusive spaces like ABESCN have encouraged him to pursue leadership opportunities and thrive as a student.