Pham provides mentorship, makes campus welcoming for all

· 4 min read

Pham provides mentorship, makes campus welcoming for all

Civil engineering major Kiley Pham smiles for a photo inside Kiewit Hall.
Kristen Labadie | University Communication and Marketing
Civil engineering major Kiley Pham smiles for a photo inside Kiewit Hall.

Editor’s Note — This Q&A is part of a weekly conversation series on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature Huskers who are making impacts on campus and look to maintain that momentum in future careers.

In this first week of Pride Month, we’re talking to Kiley Pham, a senior civil engineering major from Lincoln. Through campus involvements and internships, Pham is growing her skills, mentoring others and making campus a more welcoming place for all.

What originally drew you to engineering - and specifically civil engineering? What type of work do you hope to do after graduation?

In high school, I had the opportunity to job shadow my youth group leader, Nho, who is a civil engineer. I enjoyed the experience and conducted more research on my own. I also participated in Upward Bound in high school, which helped me continue my engineering studies and prepare for college. After graduation, I hope to continue working at my internship with Alfred Benesch and Company, transitioning to a full-time position on the aviation team to design roadways.

You’re an Inclusion Scholars Program Mentor in the College of Engineering. Can you talk about why greater representation in engineering is important?

When I was in Upward Bound, I did have a mentor named Kyly, and she helped me believe in myself throughout my high school journey, especially in being an engineer. Therefore, I wanted to be a mentor for the Inclusion Scholars Program and give back. Engineering is a white male-dominated field. It does sound intimidating at first, but being a mentor in the Inclusion Scholars Program helps me to demonstrate to my mentees to not be afraid. Our world is changing every day; it is important to have an inclusive and diverse workforce.

Can you talk more about the community you found with Sigma Psi Zeta? 

The community I found with Sigma Psi Zeta is inclusive. SYZ was the first community where I felt I could be myself, including embracing my identity as a gay person. I grew up in a Catholic community, where it was hard and scary to be myself because I was taught that being gay is wrong. However, Sigma Psi Zeta encourages and supports me in being true to who I am.

You’re currently an aviation intern with Benesch. What does that internship entail and how has it been to expand your learning outside of the classroom?

As an aviation intern with Benesch, I mainly perform quantity checks, which means I double-check the engineers’ numbers and ensure that the quantities match on the spreadsheet, AutoCAD and plans. Last summer, in 2023, I visited Kearney and talked to the construction manager about their work progress. My internship taught me that grades do not define me. Most engineering firms look for someone who has good work habits and interpersonal skills.

Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime? 

Something I hope to accomplish in my lifetime is traveling, to try new foods and educate myself in different cultures. Traveling offers a deep, meaningful opportunity for personal growth and learning. Experiencing diverse landscapes, traditions and ways of life helps me expand my knowledge and growth.

What or who inspires you? 

My family inspires me every day. Both of my parents migrated from Vietnam to the United States without knowing English. Despite this challenge, they were both able to find jobs and taught themselves English. They provided my brother and me with opportunities that they did not have while growing up. Additionally, my brother Brady Pham inspires me because he doesn’t care about others’ opinions and makes his own choices without needing permission from anyone. He is a hardworking individual who moved to New York City for grad school at Columbia University. While in NYC, he worked tirelessly to maintain financial stability. Despite his busy schedule, he managed to have fun and create unforgettable memories. I aspire to achieve a similar balance between work, school and life someday.

What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus? 

The best advice I can give someone to make an impact on campus is to put yourself out there by joining activities and meeting new people. It helps to create networking opportunities and connections, which can lead to internships and open up various opportunities.

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