Celebrating Diversity - Kelly Broad

Celebrating Diversity

June: PRIDE Month

In the College of Engineering, all are welcome. To better share the stories of how our faculty, staff, students and alumni are diverse in their many varying forms, we are celebrating various heritage and other nationally recognized months. This recognition will include stories about those in our greater engineering community, as well as sharing events and other opportunities.

Kelly Broad

Kelly Broad

Senior, Biological Systems Engineering

Name, Hometown, Pronouns, and any Identity/-ies you wish to share that are relevant to Pride Month.

Hometown: Lincoln (I was a Lincoln High Link and am a Science Focus Program Alum)
Year in School: will be a 5th year senior in the Fall
Pronouns: she/her primarily, they/them also fine
Identities: Lesbian

Q: Describe a bit about your personal and/or professional background.

A: I’m a biological systems engineering major, with a minor and emphasis in biomedical engineering. I also have a minor in English – it was actually reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin and writing an essay on it that I learned about the term “compulsory heterosexuality” and finally had words to describe why I felt the way I did and ultimately helped me come out.

I was able to work in the Pannier Lab for two summers while I was in high school through the Young Nebraska Scientist Program. I was hired to work part time at the lab assisting then-graduate student now research professor Dr. Andrew Hamann on his stem cell modulation research while I was a senior in high school. So, this next school year will be my 6th calendar year working in the Pannier Lab – I’ve learned so much there and been provided wonderful mentorship from both Dr. Hamann and Dr. Pannier.

This summer I’m in Jacksonville, Florida working at the Mayo Clinic in their Regenerative Science department as a part of their Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.

Q: What is your role in the College of Engineering – and what do you enjoy (love!) about what you are doing? This can include groups you are involved in.

A: During the 2019-2020 school year, I had the privilege of serving as the president of the Engineering Student Advisory Board, representing and advocating for the undergraduate engineering student body during a tumultuous year. I also joined the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identities to help provide a student perspective to the group, and was appointed to the newly developed College of Engineering Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to represent oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and also helped represent disabled students of the college.

My time in the College of Engineering has been challenging. My freshman year, I was diagnosed with dyscalculia, a math learning disability. I made some mistakes along the way, but have worked through four years of my degree and grown as an engineer and an individual through this process. This last school year I was also a teaching assistant for BSEN 100 and BSEN 112, first year courses in my department, where I was able to share my story and be a resource for students unsure how to seek accommodations. I hope that I was able to be a visible queer and disabled person in the department, and that any students with overlapping identities knew they weren’t alone.

Q: How do you bring your own unique background to your role/responsibilities in the college or your professional life?

A: It’s important for teams to include all the voices present at the table, and notice if someone isn’t sitting down at the table or is left standing out in the hallway. Moreover, my background, and at times my treatment due to my sexual orientation and learning disability, has taught me that you should never exclude someone arbitrarily from a project or group for fear of not fitting the “culture” or “personalities” in the group. When I look at my peers, I see engineers-in-training, first and foremost – and that should be unifying and in itself prove that they deserve to be there. When that happens, we can then value the differences between everyone which can bring fresh thoughts and techniques to the table that will challenge us to think differently and engage with problems from different perspectives to find the best solution.

Q: How can others in the engineering community (on and off campus) be allies to you and others in the LGBTQIA+ community?

A: At the end of the day, sharing and reading stories like mine are the tip of the iceberg for meaningful advocacy and allyship without institutional support and changes to structures that act intentionally or unintentionally to limit the ability of marginalized groups to access opportunities. While my identities do not impact my abilities to be a good engineer, they do not align with the traditional, platonic ideal of engineers. I’m an engineer who happens to be queer, disabled, and a woman – these identities change my experiences and provide different perspectives to bring to a team and solve a problem, but they don’t change my ability to be an technically strong engineer. Being viewed as a queer, disabled, woman engineer shouldn’t be a barrier, but it is in some circumstances. Allies need to challenge these ideals when we think about who engineering students are, and who they can be, and question who benefits from the status quo.