Credentials: Chemical Engineering
Position title: 2021 Denice Denton Scholarship Recipient
Katie White is a fourth-year Chemical Engineering undergraduate from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is honored to be a recipient of the Denice Denton Scholarship. Katie is a scholar within LEED (Leaders in Engineering Excellence and Diversity) and a co-founder and executive member of QTE (Queer and Trans Engineers).
From the time she joined UW-Madison, finding a community has been a top priority for Katie. As a freshman, she joined the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) learning community in the residence halls. There, she found a group of women that she could lean on and look up to throughout the challenges and successes of the first-year experience, especially as an underrepresented student in her field.
Additionally, Katie attributes her passion for seeking community, especially in terms of leadership and mentorship, to Leaders in Engineering Excellence and Diversity, a scholars’ organizations in which Katie has been a member since freshman year.
“The LEED community has been pivotal to my success at the University, guiding me with academic and professional supports that I didn’t even know were available to me. This program has set high standards for what ‘community’ means to me. I aim to uphold those standards for every community in which I am a member and leader.”
After seeing the hugely positive impacts of holding community spaces for underrepresented groups in engineering, Katie worked to co-create the student organization Queer and Trans Engineers at UW-Madison. This started with a need for a space for LGBTQ+ students in engineering.
“Many people aren’t aware of the specific nuances and pain points of being an engineering student who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. I think that it is well-known that engineering spaces overrepresent men. Heteronormativity, however, is a less noticed, yet pervasive form of bias in engineering spaces. Expanding our definitions of diversity and inclusion can begin to reveal and combat these biases.”
She was not, by far, the first LGBTQ+ student to feel these impacts. As a co-founder, Katie is grateful to have created the QTE community with four other peers who also identified a need for an organization for LGBTQ+ engineering students. Along with their founding committee, QTE has grown to a virtual community of 40+ students, who have found ways to give support and connection in times where it has been most needed.
“QTE only has had the opportunity to meet in-person once to date. However, I have felt the immense support of my fellow QTEs throughout the course of our online semesters. The accessibility that an online community offers has led QTE to thrive and become a space of trust and support, which is something that I would never wish to be different.”
Not only as a member, but as a co-founder of QTE, Katie also has first-hand experience advocating for her community. She is pleased to have volunteered for different focus groups within the College of Engineering to improve LGBTQ+ student experiences. This has encompassed work not only on the level of the broader engineering community, but also more specific work with college deans, faculty, and other cross-campus support resources such as the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center (GSCC). She has found that the most impactful work comes from reaching out and forming a network of supports and information for students.
Katie plans to graduate in Spring 2023 with a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering and a certificate in Religious Studies. She is passionate about working in the food and beverage industry, with goals of creating food that is accessible to a variety of people and their dietary observances. This summer, Katie was an R&D intern at the Kraft-Heinz Company, and next summer, she sees herself working for a start-up in the same industry. Upon graduation from UW-Madison’s Chemical Engineering program, she would like to continue exploring the intersection of process and product design within the food and beverage industry, working toward a leadership position. Regardless of where she finds herself in the coming years, Katie intends to continue finding and defining what community means to her, upholding the legacy and values of Denice Denton.