XULA BUILD Alumna Kirsten McGowan Selected as a 2021 Olay x Ebony HBCU STEM Queen

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Contact Info: bwashi15@xula.edu

By Brhea Washington

XULA BUILD alumna and 86th Miss Xavier Kirsten McGowan was selected as a Top 10 in the 2021 Olay x Ebony HBCU STEM Queen

Ebony Magazine’s longest-running editorial franchise, the HBCU Campus Queens competition, commemorates Black collegiate women around the world poised to make positive changes in the African American community. The competition highlights brilliant students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs in collaboration with the cosmetics company Olay. XULA BUILD alumna Kirsten McGowan was selected as a Top 10 2021 Olay x Ebony HBCU STEM Queen.  

One thousand miles away from her native home of Chicago, Illinois, McGowan chose Xavier because she felt the university’s environment, faculty, and students would provide her with a supportive foundation, similar to her family back home. She also valued that Xavier is rooted in faith and known nationwide for producing the most Black doctors in the country. As a first-year pharmacy student, McGowan found great comfort in the Xavier community as she transitioned into pharmacy school.  

 Attending Xavier allowed McGowan to pursue her STEM passion, which she discovered at a young age. For McGowan, it has been a meaningful experience to be an HBCU STEM Queen because of her love for STEM. 

McGowan is also an alumna of Xavier's Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity initiative (XULA BUILD), Project Pathways. Project Pathways aims to strengthen the growth of students of color in STEM through exposure to research opportunities, mentorships, and graduate programs. Project Pathways ingrained vital principles into McGowan’s life that she utilizes daily, such as the power of confidence. 

“XULA BUILD helped put me in a mindset of knowing how to present myself confidently and knowledgeably, which I don’t think I would have without BUILD,” said McGowan. “When you’re able to apply a knowledgeable, confident mindset to your life and career, the opportunities to grow and succeed are amplified tremendously, especially in the STEM world.”  

McGowan found Project Pathways and the BUILD program to be an eye-opening experience as she was granted exposure to new and different opportunities she hadn’t accessed before, such as industries, labs, and hospital settings. 

McGowan’s XULA BUILD mentor, Anup Kundu, PhD, helped play a role in making her HBCU STEM Queen through his methodology of pushing her to think ahead.  

“When I had the opportunity to have Dr. Kundu as a BUILD mentor, I knew it would be great. He makes you question how you build upon what you’ve already done and how to make things greater. That’s a perspective I’ve taken from the lab and have applied to my life,” said McGowan. 

HBCU STEM Queen is one of two titles that have been bestowed upon McGowan, who is also the 86th Miss Xavier. McGowan’s mother emphasized how inspirational and impactful the titles were. This helped McGowan to understand how her roles serve not only as representation but an inspiration for others.  

“Being able to attend events as Miss Xavier where I’m wearing my crown shows a solid, strong representation of what a Black woman can look like. I realized my titles are so much more than just titles. Being able to showcase strength for young, little girls to see is everything to me,” said McGowan.  

In full pursuit of STEM and pharmacy school, McGowan has taken her experiences as stepping stones, continuing to push her to greater heights. McGowan exemplifies that faith, confidence, hard work, and determination goes a long way. McGowan said she is constantly looking forward to what’s next, assured that STEM will always be part of her journey.  

"When I first got into school, I didn’t feel as though I was the best at science, but it intrigued me most because it brought out my creative side. I knew I wanted to be in the STEM field, and I’ve always felt STEM has been my purpose,” said McGowan. “No matter how hard or challenging things are, I still find myself dedicated. When you’re passionate about something, and nothing can dilute your passion, that’s when you know you’ve found your calling.”  

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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