Western EngiQueers: Celebrating diversity and inclusion in engineering

Siena-Josh.pngThe Western EngiQueers are a student-run undergraduate engineering club at Western University that promotes and celebrates diversity, specifically focusing on members of LGBTQ communities. They’re part of EngiQueers Canada, a nationwide group with 30 members across the country.

To mark Pride Month, we caught up with Western EngiQueers co-presidents Siena Ianni-Palarchio and Josh Horkits (pictured right). They shared their experiences with EngiQueers, the importance of finding your networks and building relationships at Western Engineering, and what they have planned for the year ahead. 

Why did you join Western EngiQueers?

Josh: To find new people in the community with a similar mindset and set of experiences as myself as I continued exploring who I was and discovering new areas of myself. 

Siena: After an unconventional first year in 2020, I was eager to become more involved at school. As I looked at opportunities, I felt that EngiQueers aligned with my personal values, and I just knew I had to be a part of it.

What has been a highlight for you being a part of EngiQueers?

Josh: The highlight of joining EngiQueers for me has been seeing the strength of the community within Western Engineering, and connecting with other groups on campus to continue spreading awareness and advocacy for safe and inclusive spaces on campus. Specifically, having people come to events looking for resources, connections, and advice similar to the way I had in first year really showed me how full circle these organizations on campus become, and how pivotal their continued operation is to minority members of the student population. 

Speaking on a more personal experience, during my second year with EngiQueers I was able to meet Siena, who is both my co-president and best friend. Without EngiQueers, several major relationships and experiences in my life would have likely come out vastly different.

Siena: Reviving Eng Does Drag this past year - although challenging - was incredibly rewarding. For context, our marquee event had to be put on hold these past few years due to pandemic restrictions. As such, I was concerned about attendee turnout and how the event would be received overall. These worries, however, were unwarranted as the event exceeded all expectations and the energy throughout the night was genuinely electric. For the first time ever, we were also able to hire a drag queen to embcee the event which elevated the experience! Seeing so many people engage with such a critical piece of queer culture with such fierce passion was truly a beautiful thing.

On a more personal note, EngiQueers is how Josh and I actually became friends and (cliche as it is) I really can’t imagine my life without him in it.


How important are clubs and teams to the Western Engineering student experience?

Josh: Clubs, in all forms and facets, are extremely important for bringing together like-minded individuals with similar interests and capabilities. Moreover, these organizations allow for students to build skills, create lasting relationships, and promote both advocacy and inclusion for groups they support/ are actively a part of.

Siena: Clubs are important to the student experience because they provide resources to develop both soft and technical skills that you wouldn’t necessarily obtain by simply attending lectures. Equity clubs in particular really help to foster a sense of community. There are some antiquated notions that have been historically perpetuated regarding what it looks like to be an engineer but they’re simply not true! There are so many diverse people entering this field and it’s essential to understand and value their perspectives.

What are you excited about for the year ahead? 

Josh: In an effort to continue building member engagement, retention, and overall club outreach, Siena and I have planned a very packed schedule for the club this coming year. In addition to bi-annual big ticket events such as Eng Does Drag, we have planned a series of monthly events ranging from movie mixers to partnerships with local organizations. Legacy events such as the Valentines Charity Fundraiser will also be making an appearance this year, and the first ever WEQ general election to name the new presidents will take place in April. 

Siena: In addition to the annual events members can expect some really fun new additions. This year we intend to expand our fundraising avenues by implementing another charity initiative to raise money for a local LGBTQ+ organisation. I am also excited to continue with the EngiQueers podcast that I started this year. My aim is to feature a variety of guests - including queer people in industry as well as students from other EngiQueers chapters - to highlight a wide scope of topics.

What would you say to incoming students who might be considering joining EngiQueers?

Josh: Come to our faculty and residence outreach events! We can get you set up with our email list and social media platforms to stay updated and informed on club activities and events!

Siena: The residence outreach 2SLGBTQ+ and Ally Meet and Greet event that we partake in is one of my absolute favourite events of the year! I love meeting all the first years so don’t hesitate to come and chat if you want to know more about Western EngiQueers! This club and all our events are for LGBTQ+ students and allies alike and there will always be a place for you here. Finally, for incoming students who are potentially worried about balancing those 7 courses in their first year, general membership in this club is low commitment so come out to one of our social events and see how you like it! Who knows, you might even meet some lifelong friends here! 


To find out more about Western EngiQueers, visit them on Instagram.