Sam Brinton created a scholarship in the College of Engineering to create a place where LGBTQ engineering students are going to be welcomed.
The end of the work day was near in Washington DC as Sam Brinton picked up the phone while printing and editing legislation to be sent to California before one last meeting in 20 minutes. One would have to be prone to multitasking when advising the president of the United States on nuclear issues, serving as the head of advocacy for government affairs with The Trevor Project, and on the weekends attending The Oscars representing said LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization.
“I advise the president of the United States on nuclear issues. I get to testify in front of the Supreme Court, and I get to walk along the halls of Congress in my bright purple heels because I’m good at what I do,” Sam said. “I’m good at what I do because I was trained at one of the best engineering schools in the country — Kansas State University.”
Sam’s initial draw to K-State was the opportunity to study both nuclear engineering and vocal music performance at one school. After receiving a dual degree in nuclear engineering and music from K-State, Sam obtained two Master of Science degrees from MIT in nuclear engineering and technology and policy program. Sam later founded Core Solutions Consulting to serve the national need for expertise on socio-technical translation on issues ranging from nuclear waste management to congressional outreach on advanced nuclear energy innovation.
Before this career in nuclear waste advising took off, Sam started at K-State where the ability to continue as a student depended on the ability to obtain scholarships.
“Many LGBTQ youth are rejected by their families and I was no different,” Sam said. “I didn’t have a back-up, so I threw myself into my academic work and extra curriculars.”
Sam’s devotion led to receiving many large scholarships as a student including a Student Opportunity Award and several awards from the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, NACME.
“I will never be able to impress upon others what it meant to have that life raft, and it’s one of the many reasons I started my scholarship,” Sam said.
As a student at K-State, Sam was one of the only out LGBTQ persons in the College of Engineering, which was not always easy. Sam recalls being openly mocked on campus, which led to Sam’s leadership in making K-State and the country a more welcoming place for LGBTQ students. This included creating a scholarship for LGBTQ engineering students at K-State.
“The reason I created the LGBTQ engineering scholarship was because I wanted every single person who applies for a scholarship in engineering to have to see those two words right next to each other: LGBTQ and engineering,” Sam said. “To remind students this will be a place where LGBTQ students are going to be welcomed.”
Nationally, Sam’s advocacy for LGBTQ persons includes speaking before the United Nations and Congress regarding conversion therapy and LGBTQ rights. Sam is the national vice president for advocacy for oSTEM, Out in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, and K-State sends one of the largest delegations of LGBTQ engineering students to this conference. Sam is also the head of advocacy and government affairs with The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention program that serves nearly 100,000 LGBTQ youth every year who are in crisis.
“I hear from kids in Kansas who feel like there is no one else like them, and I know exactly what that felt like,” Sam said. “Now I can happily say they’re not the only ones; they are not alone and K-State is becoming a place where you can be yourself and be really good at being yourself.”