2022 William Muir Edwards Citizenship Award: Jocelyn Bartolome, Mechanical Engineering Co-op

“No one deserves to feel invisible.” — Jocelyn Bartolome

Donna McKinnon - 21 November 2022

Inclusion is a driving force in Jocelyn Bartolome’s life. Her commitment to presenting herself authentically has profoundly affected those around her, creating welcoming spaces for marginalized groups in engineering and beyond.   

In her first year of engineering, Jocelyn, who uses she/her pronouns and is a co-op student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, looked around and saw little diversity, adding to the general sense of exclusion she felt as a gender non-conforming individual. Owing to the competitiveness of the program, and its high rate of withdrawal, Jocelyn was told that success was dependent on a level of conformity that she was not prepared or willing to accept.  

“I was immediately aware of systems of oppression that are in place which make it difficult for equity deserving students to succeed in engineering,” she says, adding that these harmful messages were both direct and implied. Speaking with fellow students, she learned that others felt the same way she did — unheard and unsafe in expressing their true selves. 

“No one deserves to feel invisible,” says Jocelyn. “This is a problem that motivates me to create a home, both on campus and virtually, where people can be themselves without the fear of being judged.”

In 2018, Jocelyn became a member of Diversity in Engineering (DivE), a club that advocates for the inclusion of marginalized groups in engineering and strives to create an environment that fosters the growth of all students. She has served as president from 2020-2022, and has been actively involved in planning and moderating events, spotlighting the experiences of marginalized demographics so that students from those groups are able to find role models and friends. 

“Being a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, given engineering’s masculinity and heteronormativity, it is not easy to find community,” says Nicole Wilson, Postdoctoral Fellow in Inclusivity in Engineering. “As Jocelyn points out, it is core to respect, love and dignity. It is core to citizenship work and to being supported to persist in that citizenship work.”

In 2021, Jocelyn assisted in arranging BIPOC in STEM — an event where industry professionals shared their struggles and successes as Black, Indigenous and people of colour in science, technology, engineering and math. 

More recently, she moderated DivE’s 2022 Pride Trivia Night — an event to educate others about queer history. The recap social media posts where stories of resilience are shared have proven overwhelmingly popular, as are the two video projects she produced in 2021/22 that demonstrated that people of colour, queer individuals, women and other minority groups belong at the U of A. The first is the DivE club introduction video and the second, This is What an Engineering Student Looks Like, a collection of Instagram reels. 

“These initiatives impact others by letting them know that we love and celebrate our differences,” says Jocelyn. “Together, these projects have reached thousands of people online, ranging from 500-5000 views per video.”

Off campus, Jocelyn volunteers at THE QUILTBAG, an Edmonton shop selling queer and trans wares, where she applies her knowledge and skills to social media video content development. She also started a YouTube channel, creating videos to share her experiences as a queer person of colour in engineering and how she navigates the difficulties of the engineering world. 

“I share my story on this platform to break down barriers, allowing people from outside of engineering to learn about this field,” explains Jocelyn. “The message is that everyone belongs here, that they can succeed in this space and that I believe in them. Altogether, these videos have nearly 10,000 views and many U of A community members tell me that they enjoy the honest perspective that my videos provide.”

A firm believer in sharing and fostering power, Jocelyn also developed the DivE discord server, a communication app with separate channels for different topics which allows members to discuss their stories, frustrations and aspirations. More than 70 students have joined the server, sharing intimate aspects of their life, including their gender expression and sexuality.

“We all contribute to this safe environment by listening to others, letting them know that their feelings are valid, and assuring people that they are not alone.”

“Through her volunteer work as president of DivE along with her personal youtube channel, Jocelyn is consistently working to help make the engineering community a space that is welcoming and respectful of all,” says Christina Strilets, a fellow student and current 2022 DivE co-president. “The impact of Jocelyn’s online work is very much felt in the real world.”

As Nicole Wilson notes, when Jocelyn speaks, she is able to “invite humour” and, at the same time, moderate discussion and questions about equity, diversity, and inclusivity — often polarizing topics in society today.

“If I can make one person smile or laugh or feel at ease, then that is enough for me,” says Jocelyn. “Making this community even 1% better motivates me to keep working towards the goal of dismantling these systems of oppression.” 

Named in honour of the Faculty of Engineering’s founding professor, the William Muir Edwards Citizenship Award recognizes Engineering at Alberta undergraduate students who have made exceptional contributions to society. It’s a celebration of citizenship and of engineering students who go to extraordinary lengths to make our world a better place. Special thanks to the David Morris Family Foundation for supporting our students and making the William Muir Edwards Citizenship Awards possible. 

Do you know an undergraduate student whose volunteerism, contributions, and efforts, both on-campus and off-campus, work to make the world a better place? Learn more about the nomination process here.