I recently changed jobs at the University of Kansas, which has made me reflective about the last couple of years. One role that I have enjoyed during that time period is being the faculty adviser for KU’s chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM), which is an LGBTQA organization for students and allies in the STEM fields.
All of this self-reflection helped me choose the subject of my interview this month. Kyle Young is a fourth-year engineering student who helped found KU’s chapter of oSTEM in the fall of 2013. His drive and determination have helped the organization to thrive since its very beginning. However, Kyle isn’t just a student and club organizer, but also a young man with diverse interests and hobbies that include rock climbing and brewing beer. He is a dynamic person, and I have enjoyed coming to know him.
1. You helped to establish KU’s chapter of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. What led you to this, especially since KU already has more than one LGBT organization?
I had noticed my LGBTQQIA+ peers in STEM did not have a community with which they could identify. I thought that oSTEM would be a good opportunity to foster the “in it together” community, as we are often marginalized within the STEM field at large.
2. What has been your most rewarding experience in oSTEM?
The most rewarding experience that I’ve had with oSTEM was the chance to really showcase just how much our chapter had grown over the few short months since our founding. It was nice to collaborate with fellow chapters and to network with queer-friendly professionals on ideas on how to make STEM more inclusive for the queer community.
3. Besides your involvement in oSTEM, you are also a full-time engineering student. What would you like to do in the engineering field after you graduate?
My dream job within engineering is to one day open up my own rapid-prototyping and design firm focused on providing professional consultation services for everyday entrepreneurs and inventors to help make their dreams a reality.
4. Have you ever had any issues being an openly gay man at KU, particularly in the STEM field?
Based on how the existing STEM industry at-large has traditionally viewed members of the LGBTQQIA+ community, I have had reservations about discussing my personal life with coworkers or in job interviews. I’ve felt apprehensive in discussions with industry professionals about openly sharing my personal life, including relationships and life experiences. I have never felt ashamed for my membership within the queer community, but I believe that some STEM professionals could potentially perceive my inclusion in this minority as a negative characteristic or even reduce my identity to stereotypical stigmas.
5. In your free time, one of your hobbies is rock climbing. How old were you when you first started?
I was 5 years old when my parents found me climbing trees in my backyard using an improvised harness that I had fashioned out of odd bits of rope. Basically, in order to prevent me from killing myself, my parents took me to a local rock-climbing wall every Wednesday, where I really found my passion for the hobby.
6. Why do you like rock climbing?
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being on the face of a rock where you have the exposure of wind whipping around you and you can’t hear anything — it is just you and the rock. I find that my mind completely clears and all I am thinking about is my next step. I love the simple beauty of it – the only option I have while being on a 600-foot face is to go up. I am able to live completely in the moment and forget about the stressors in my life. You go up or you don’t go at all.
7. What has been the most challenging climb that you have ever done?
Honestly, the hardest climb for me was the first few climbs after a nasty fall that I had a few years ago. I had to learn to overcome the fear and to push myself to get back to the wall after seriously injuring myself. I found myself having to regain the confidence and strength that it took to maintain the mentality of a passionate rock climber. The drive of the rock-climbing mentality is to constantly challenge oneself to push to the next hardest, more physically challenging climb. The hardest climb will always be the next one.
8. And, of course, I can’t interview you without asking about beer brewing. How did you start brewing?
A few years ago, at my first-ever college party, I had my first taste of beer, which happened to be a Boulevard Wheat. I found myself fascinated by the intricately complex characteristics of the beer and more excited about the nuances of the flavor than I was about the intoxicating effects of the alcohol. From that point on, I decided that I was going to uncover and explore the age-old art of brewing beer.
9. What is your ultimate goal in home-brewing beer?
After nearly a year and half (and a sizeable chunk of change later), I have fallen in love with the duality of creating a quality beer. It takes a dedication to both out-of-the-box thinking and the science it requires to back the creativity up. It’s tradition, art, history, creativity, love and passion, and someday I would love to be a part of that tradition on a professional level.
10. If you could be any beer, which one would you be?
As a major hop-head, I would undoubtedly be a West Coast style India Pale Ale. Some might find me to be a little bitter, but once you really get to know me, I’m chock-full of flavor.