Podcast - S1E5

The Complete Engineering® Podcast

Diversity & Inclusion

Right now we're working on launching the Multicultural Engineering program and the Women in Engineering program. These are huge diversity initiative programs that we're really excited about. The point of these programs is to offer a place of community for students before classes even start.

Jayde McWilliams
Coordinator of Student Development, College of Engineering

Embracing diversity and prioritizing an inclusive environment is a top priority at the University of Nebraska.

On today's episode, we talk with Jayde McWilliams from Student Services and Engineering student Lindsey Jarema about several new programs aimed at building a stronger community within the College of Engineering.

Jayde McWilliams and Lindsey Jarema
Follow us at:


Intro: Welcome to the Complete Engineering podcast, brought to you by the College of Engineering. We are Nebraska. Where we develop complete engineers with technical and non-technical skills to do big things. Visit us at engineering.unl.edu.

(Husker Fight Song)

Matt Honke: Welcome to another episode of The Complete engineering podcast hosted by the University of Nebraska, College of Engineering. I'm Matt Honke.

Karl Vogel: And I'm Karl Vogel.

Matt Honke: Today we are joined by Jayde McWilliams and Lindsey Jarema.

Jayde McWilliams and Lindsey Jarema: Hello. Hi.

Matt Honke: Jayde is a coordinator of student development and engineering student services and is part of the student development team that helps students set and reach their academic personal and professional goals. She has been instrumental in developing programs like the Multicultural Engineering Program, Women in Engineering program and The Engineering Readiness Academy.

Karl Vogel: And Lindsey is a senior in chemical and bio molecular engineering. Has been a leader and numerous student organizations, including being a driving force in organizing the university's chapter of oSTEM, which is Out in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, and it strives to provide community for and empower LGBTQ plus students in STEM fields to succeed academically and professionally.

Matt Honke: So along those lines speaking of community we take great pride here at the University Nebraska in diversity inclusion. As you walk down the hallways, you'll see all are welcome signs posted around. Jayde, I'll start with you. How do you see a sense of community being developed here in the college of engineering?

Jayde McWilliams: A huge part of my job is to make sure that there are opportunities for community to develop from day one as soon as you become an engineering student, you come to campus, before classes even start. My job is to make sure that there's opportunities for you to meet all the other students who are coming in with you, all the faculty in your department, all the upper class men who are so excited to welcome you to campus. A lot of the programs that I develop are based around giving students the opportunity to just see each other. The first day on campus is always awkward. Do you remember your first day on campus?

Lindsey Jarema: I remember being really scared. I didn't know where anything was. The day before classes I went all around to the different buildings and then it was like a weekend and I didn't have card access so I couldn't find the actual rooms. So I was still nervous about it. I just remember a lot of nervousness before starting school and then stuff that did help me defuse that nervousness was I did the NUBE program when I started. I met other students in my hall. I was a part of a learning community and all these other little pieces that kind of foster community even before you know that you have to actively look for it. It's kind of gently put to you in the way that you just kind of find automatically.

Karl Vogel: What exactly is the NUBE experience?

Jayde McWilliams: So NUBE stands for, Nebraska Undergraduates Becoming Engineers. It's a two day event that happens the week before classes starts, so like right after students move in, they come to NUBE, and it's just for college of engineering students and first day is like a big welcome to the college and you get to meet other students in your major and meet some faculty from your major and ask those questions of like, someone said I had to buy textbooks, where do I do that? So you can ask questions like that on the first day but most importantly meet other students who are in the college first year. They're also here for the first day on campus and you can do the awkward, hi, my name is Jayde. I'm from here, where are you from? And it's not weird. And then the second day is an industry experience day. So we go on industry tours all around either Lincoln or Omaha. We kind of go back and forth. So it's an opportunity for students to see what their major looks like in the real world. Where they could potentially be interning, cooping or working for ish years from that day.

Matt Honke: Now Lindsey you are so outgoing and fun. I can't imagine you would have been awkward on day one but how was NUBE experience for you to get to meet new people at the start?

Lindsey Jarema: So when I came to UNL the amount of people I knew in the College of Engineering I could count on zero hands. So I was really excited to meet new students and also had no idea what they would be like and just had no idea what I was getting into. Still wasn't even like fully committed to engineering, other than a declaration of a major and I had no idea what I was doing or what to do with my hands or where to stand or how to introduce myself.

Jayde McWilliams: How do I make myself look like an engineer?

Lindsey Jarema: I'm here, I don't know how much milk should I drink beforehand? What do I do? Yeah, the NUBE experience was so important to meeting other engineering students. And while you do get that if you live in a learning community. My roommate at the time was rushing for a sorority so then she actually wasn't able to do the NUBE experience. And then another one of my roommates hadn't moved in yet. And then the one roommate that I did know was going to that. So it was like okay, I know one person, we can talk for a little bit and then I can also meet other people. And that was like my gateway into actually meeting other students in the College of Engineering. Like you mentioned the all are welcome signs and those are important for everyone to see and constantly be reminded of. And these organizations almost like a personalized you are welcome here sign. And that really does a lot for students.

Karl Vogel: And you mentioned learning community is something we have talked about. Can you explain what a learning community is for people who might not know and why it's beneficial?

Jayde McWilliams: Sure, so our learning communities are little community set up in the residence hall where you can enroll and take classes with some of your other engineering fellow students. And so you all live on the same floor. You take some classes together and then there's programming every week or month to give you all a chance to connect with each other. So they're academically focused in the sense that you all are taking classes together and you're all likely in similar majors but really the focus of a learning community is having the opportunity to say, you know I live in my dorm room. Me and my roommate we both have a similar interest in engineering and in some way. And then I can walk outside my door and the person on my left and the person on my right, they're also interested in engineering.

Karl Vogel: Lindsey was in a learning community so then one of the byproducts from that obviously is creating an immediate support group for people going through the same things you're going through. How did that help you?

Lindsey Jarema: So what was big for me was the transition from high school to college, was very rough in terms of actually having to study because I never had to do that before. And like oh you have to study to pass a class. What a concept. So when I had a calc one, even though I was familiar with calc concepts from high school it was just very different taking it as a college class. So when everyone in my learning community, we would all be studying for the same test with the same professor at the same time. So it was really nice that the people around you are generally they're busy when you're busy and it really helps to kind of keep you on track with when you should be paying attention to specific classes because you have a lot of that in common.

Matt Honke: Jayde, can you go a little further into what different programs and what do we have in place that helps to encourage and foster diversity in the College of Engineering.

Jayde McWilliams: Right now we're working on launching the Multicultural Engineering program and the Women in Engineering program. These are huge diversity initiative programs that we're really excited about. The point of the programs really is again to offer our place of community for students before classes even really start. So the students who are joining these programs are all committed to both leadership and diversity and perhaps the advancement of women in engineering in a personal way really. The women and the men who are joining the Women in Engineering program agree as a group, there should be more women in STEM and in engineering and I care about that and I want to be around other people who also care about that.

Matt Honke: And so next year we are starting with the very first cohort of Women in Engineering. Is that correct?

Jayde McWilliams: Correct, yes.

Karl Vogel: What specifically does the Women in Engineering program offer and the Multicultural Engineering program, what these two programs offer to students?

Jayde McWilliams: So they're kind of like sibling programs. So they operate really similarly and they're designed in the same way. The only difference really is the commitment that each of the students if those groups really has. Ultimately you start taking classes together as a group. So the Multicultural Engineering program and the Women in Engineering program will take their freshman engineering seminar altogether. They'll have success coaching with me every month. And we do events and programs around topics that will help them succeed in their first year. So like how to adjust to studying. (laughing) You've literally never had to do it before and how to overcome like perhaps the shame or guilt surrounding like I don't know how to study. And also I failed my first exam. Nobody else is failing. What do I do? Your first bad grades. Yeah, it's life shattering.

Karl Vogel: What went into the decision making process for somebody from Pennsylvania to want to come to Nebraska?

Lindsey Jarema: Yeah, it's like 956 miles from my original address that I moved from.

Jayde McWilliams: You said like as if about that, approximately. It's 956 like point zero.

Lindsey Jarema: I was looking at number one what different scholarships other schools offered. I was looking specifically for an engineering education and the big ten. I wanted to go to a big state school. I wanted to move away from home and really branch out. was also looking at Penn State. I also didn't know that I was gay before I moved and otherwise I might have been scared to do that. But now that I'm here and if like found all this community and then helps to found community and stuff like that, I would not change anything or have it any other way. It turns out you can actually create community wherever you are. So not a big deal. So being in a learning community was crucial because that really fostered that initial step of exiting my dorm room door and kind of like putting the toe in the water and just like expanding out slowly.

Jayde McWilliams: And that's like a safe expansion too because like I said you can assume the person next to you is probably also in engineering.

Lindsey Jarema: Right.

Jayde McWilliams: So like hey what's your major? Is like okay. Me too.

Matt Honke: So it's safe to say that having those different communities around you, right from the start were crucial in your early success which as you mentioned Jayde is crucial to your long term success.

Lindsey Jarema: Absolutely.

Matt Honke: If those communities hadn't been there or if you hadn't taken the initiative and created communities that were there that the likelihood of the long term success would've been the same probably.

Jayde McWilliams: Programs like the Multicultural Engineering program and the Women in Engineering program. My job is to make sure that they always have at least one person to talk to. And then as they, as their network grows on campus, like how Lindsey's network gradually grew on campus. For almost everything that you need support for you have perhaps someone different to go to, to turn to.

Matt Honke: This is the Complete Engineering podcast and that's in reference to our Complete Engineer initiative and there's six major components of that intercultural appreciation, leadership, teamwork, self management, service and civic responsibility and engineering ethics. Lindsay with you teamwork and leadership. We've talked about the great programs we have in the engineering college. You've gone outside of the engineering college and started university wide programs. What led you to do that and what skills are important that you use to be able to create something that wasn't there before and that is benefiting students all across the entire university?

Lindsey Jarema: What inspired me to create a chapter of oSTEM here because it is a national organization was a conference that I attended when I was a sophomore. That has a similar mission to oSTEM but it was more specifically for engineering. So I went to this conference. I met with industry professionals and students from all over the United States and Puerto Rico who identify as LGBTQ Plus and engineers, who identify as LGBTQ Plus and engineers and meeting all of those people and being inspired by industry professionals and seeing an aerospace engineer with super short hair just like mine really encouraged me to stay in engineering and then also bring back that feeling with me to our campus. I was so inspired by this conference. I really wanted other people to feel inspired in the same way and being able to eventually hand off leadership in oSTEM to other people who were taking it over because it was an organization that they felt was valuable and actually wanted to continue being a part of and I was no longer doing all the work for it has been just infinitely meaningful to me.

Matt Honke: Well I think that's the true test of leadership right there. Is to create something to see it through and now you're leaving it in a place where someone else is now going to be tasked with taking it over. That's a great job on your part and I know the College of Engineering is very proud to have students like you.

Lindsey Jarema: It has meant the world for me. It's like a really good reminder that I'm okay with going somewhere else because being able to move from really far away and come to Lincoln and then sort of build a community around me, not just with oSTEM but meeting and expanding out to everybody in general has taught me that no matter where I go I'll be able to do that because I've done it before.

Karl Vogel: How is it that you guys see this Complete Engineering Initiative and these other programs helping to build those non-technical skills?

Jayde McWilliams: So I think that the Complete Engineer Initiative is basically a reminder that you have to have experiences in order to develop those skills, right? So like you can't say I want to work on my intercultural appreciation, so I'm going to go take this class and sit down and listen to someone talk to me about how important other cultures are. The only way that you're going to develop in that skill area is to go out and have experiences that then feed into that skill. You individually are able to interact with that experience and then reflect on that experience and say hey I learned something and now because of that experience I have this new perspective or I've grown and my perspective has grown or whatever it may be. So the Complete Engineer Initiative really pushes our students to go out and take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the College of Engineering and interact with them in a very aware way.

Lindsey Jarema: 100%, I think it does a really good job of sort of framing the culture that we want to see in the College of Engineering at UNL. So if you asked any college of engineering anywhere, maybe 50 years ago about what their priorities are in creating engineers. The goal wasn't necessarily to create people who interact with the world in a very dynamic way like we're trying to create in the College of Engineering at UNL. The priority was can you solve these equations? Can you do this math? Can you figure out this problem? And then that's it. And without all that other context you're really lacking a lot of excellent engineering potential that comes from those things.

Karl Vogel: And you've had internships and co-op opportunities. How have you seen the importance of those things from a professional standpoint?

Lindsey Jarema: My first internship or job was a co-op with UTC Aerospace Systems out in York, Nebraska. So the culture was very different than what I often surround myself with on campus at UNL. I would drive my Prius down row after row of the biggest pickup trucks I've ever seen in my life. And then I learned that I had a lot in common with a lot of the other operators and engineers that I worked with despite the fact that we are so different. And I didn't have many of the problems that I anticipated having. So being able to actually put myself outside of just my role at this job and interact and find my abilities for teamwork and leadership in that role were instrumental to my success for it and I still work there part time. And then I also had an internship or a co-op with Cargill corn milling and that was also in a smaller town but north of Omaha. So that culture was different because a lot of the engineers would live in Omaha and then commute to Blair. So the people I worked with day to day were from a larger city. So the interactions I had there were very different than the interactions that I had at UTC Aerospace Systems. And the biggest thing I learned was that teamwork isn't just like can you work with other people to accomplish a task. It's can you work with other people in your daily life, all the time in general. And actually learning how to appreciate the differences between people takes you a long way even in a job where what you're physically trying to accomplish doesn't have anything to do with appreciating the differences in people.

Matt Honke: I think what you find as you work from one job to the next. The technical skills, the engineering skills they have to be there just like they always were in the past but to be truly successful in any career that we have now it's being able to adapt to the different culture of the business or the different teams that you're going to be working with. And so all these different, what we call soft skills really are as important as anything. And so that's great that that's what we're really focusing on with our complete engineer. Jayde, how can current students and future students, how can they connect with these College of Engineering programs and student organizations?

Jayde McWilliams: So through my office, Engineering Student Services, we're always looking for current students to help us connect with other students all the time. Like Lindsey has helped us on multiple occasions. We are just like stand in front of this poster and say hi to people. Or like we hire students to be mentors for some of these programs or we hire students to come and help promote them. But primarily if you're an incoming student you're eligible to participate in the Engineering Readiness Academy. All of our three learning communities. We have one that's kind of like a general engineering community. We have one based on robotics and we have another on human performance. And then the Multicultural Engineering program and the Women in Engineering program are four year co op programs. So you start your first year all together day one and then you go through your four years together and hopefully you all graduate together four years later. To get involved in a student organization, not only can you find all that information on the College of Engineering website but all of our student organizations come together for a Big Red Welcome event. So you can come and see all the organizations that are offered on campus during the first week of classes and then the College of Engineering has a very specific one called Rock the Block, where all of our engineering student organizations come and give you free stuff and say come to our meetings, sign up our email lists. What does oSTEM do to get new members?

Lindsey Jarema: We tried to put ourselves into every come see our booth situation that there is. So there's one specifically for the College of Engineering, there's Big Red Welcome. And because STEM encompasses a lot more than just the College of Engineering. But we are technically an engineering organization. We will also do a student organization fair for like the College of Arts and Sciences and other areas as well just to try and make sure the whole campus knows that we're here. We've actually had two students switch into engineering from other STEM related principles. So like I don't know, I'm just saying. (laughter)

Jayde McWilliams: So they are like, oh this engineering thing, Lindsey really awesome. It's possible. How can I hang out with her all the time?

(bell ringing)

Matt Honke: Alright it's lightning around time again. Dog or Cat?

Jayde McWilliams: Dog.

Matt Honke: Who is your favorite superhero?

Lindsey Jarema: Jen Skidmore.

Matt Honke: Favorite tailgating food?

Jayde McWilliams: Hot dogs.

Matt Honke: Have you ever used a slide rule?

Lindsey Jarema: No.

Matt Honke: First video game that you owned?

Jayde McWilliams: I think it was Legend of Zelda in 64.

Matt Honke: Favorite musical genre?

Lindsey Jarema: Pop.

Matt Honke: What was your favorite toy growing up?

Jayde McWilliams: I had like this little baby doll that had like a beanbag body but had arms and legs. (laughter)

Matt Honke: If you could time travel, to when would you go?

Lindsey Jarema: Like 600 years in the future.

Matt Honke: On a scale of one to 10, how strict were your parents?

Jayde McWilliams: Ooh, like an eight. I couldn't wear shorts until I started college. (laughter)

Lindsey Jarema: That's like an eleven.

Jayde McWilliams: I can do other things like stay up late.

Lindsey Jarema: At what cost? (laughter)

Matt Honke: Do you know how to run a VCR?

Lindsey McWilliams: Yeah.

Matt Honke: Chocolate or vanilla?

Jayde McWilliams: Chocolate.

Matt Honke: Saturday or Sunday?

Lindsey Jarema: Saturday.

Matt Honke: What's your pet peeve?

Jayde McWilliams: People who are not aware of how they're existing in the space around other people.

Matt Honke: Pancakes or Waffles?

Lindsey Jarema: Pancakes.

Matt Honke: Herby Husker or little red?

Jayde McWilliams: Little red I guess.

Matt Honke: Thank you very much Jayde and Lindsey for joining us on the episode today.

Jayde McWilliams: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Lindsey Jarema: Thanks for having me.

(cheerful piano music)

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the Complete Engineering podcast. For more information visit us at engineering.unl.edu. (cheerful music)