19:27 PM

The New Pitt DIVA

A new generation of leaders at Pitt DIVA, an organization focused on inclusivity and intersectionality, opens their doors to nonbinary students

Pitt DIVA (Determined/Intelligent/Victorious/Available) is back. 

Longing for a space that promoted and discussed inclusivity and intersectionality, a group of students at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering resurrected Pitt DIVA, initially founded to empower women of color in STEM in 2012. The run organization had been on indefinite hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic, believing that an in-person environment was best for DIVA to truly thrive.

“Pitt DIVA was created as a space where women of color would not feel like they were on their own,” Yvette Moore, director for equity and inclusion for strategic undergraduate initiatives at the Swanson School, explained. “The women of Pitt DIVA could lend their learning minds to how they can be groomed in a way where they’re not just looked at as a marginalized group.” 

But, Pitt DIVA’s new generation is making some changes, among them welcoming nonbinary students into the organization for the first time. The organization is also planning to collaborate more with other organizations that represent underrepresented populations on campus. 

“When we started discussing bringing back Pitt DIVA, we looked at the changes in culture from 2012 to now,” Nnenna Ekoh, Pitt DIVA chairperson and junior majoring in chemical engineering, said. “The way people view gender has changed a lot, and we didn’t feel that it was fair that there wasn’t a space for individuals who don’t identify within the binary.” 

Moore said that this change is an important step for both the organization and STEM. 

“It’s very important to the engineering world that nonbinary scholars can come and be who they are to the fullest, not just pieces of themselves.” 

Fernanda Morales-Viveros, another chairperson for Pitt DIVA, and Ekoh had similar experiences when they came to the Swanson School as first-years. Facing microaggressions (mostly out of ignorance, rather than hate) from their peers and feeling isolated in a male-dominated environment, both needed to meet more similar and like-minded individuals to thrive in their engineering programs. The pandemic, which happened within their first year of college, compounded the need for a community. 

Morales-Viveros, a junior majoring in civil engineering, said intersectionality is needed to have important and cathartic conversations about microaggressions. 

“It took a long time for me to realize that a lot of the experiences I had weren’t done out of racism or hatred, but mostly from just not knowing,” she explained. “But, I also need to learn about others’ experiences as well to combat these issues.” 

Pitt DIVA was reintroduced to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering at the Women’s+ Networking Conference in November 2022. There, they presented their ideas that both honored the organization’s original mission while pushing it forward. 

The new Pitt DIVA decided it wanted to continue hosting workshops, discussions and social events as they moved into planning for the next academic year. The chairpeople of Pitt DIVA are still discussing what a future Pitt DIVA looks like, but they have a pretty good idea. 

“We ultimately want to promote a family,” Ekoh said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable and be able to meet their needs without any shame.”