The University of Nebraska–Lincoln recently celebrated six Huskers whose work and dedication have elevated the LGBTQ community on campus and beyond.
The awards celebration, held virtually April 22, was hosted by the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identities. After a cancellation a year ago due to COVID-19, the ceremony recognized 2020 and 2021 recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the LGBTQA+ Community.
This award recognizes individuals or organizations that have contributed the most to improving the status of LGBTQA+ identified people by advocating for individuals, groups and issues at the university. Each of the recipients has created an inclusive, respectful and safe climate for those who are marginalized or oppressed and may not have a voice.
The award winners (listed below with their contributions toward the LGBTQ community) are Ryan Fette, Jake Piccini and Jen Skidmore from 2020, and Kate Burger, Nicholas Harp and Corrie Svehla from 2021.
Chancellor’s Awards for Outstanding Contributions to the LGBTQA+ Community
2020 Student recipient
May 2020 graduate with high distinction, Bachelor of Science (majored in computer science)
As an incoming student, Piccini attended the 13-week Navigating Campus Workshop Series provided by the LGBTQA+ Resource Center and participated as a mentee in the Peer Mentor Program, later serving as the peer mentor coordinator at the resource center. Piccini coordinated education, personal and professional development opportunities, social programming and support for students through this and other organizations on campus, which included developing and organizing the Rainbow Ball event, serving on the executive boards of Spectrum and Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM), and as wing representative and cultural committee chair in the Kauffman Residence Association.
Attending the national oSTEM conference twice, the national Out for Undergrad Tech Conference and the 2020 Midwest BLGTA College Conference, Piccini advocated and raised funds for other students to attend conferences. According to nominators, “Jake (was) a strong servant leader on our campus, demonstrated through his involvement and service through multiple student groups, on top of a rigorous academic program.”
Piccini is currently a software development engineer at Zillow.
2020 staff recipients
Education and outreach coordinator, Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance
Fette’s contributions started as an undergraduate student at the university. Working with Spectrum and the Women’s Center, Fette served as the men’s outreach coordinator.
While pursuing a master’s degree, Fette conducted focus groups and research that contributed to his co-authoring “Perceptions of Campus Climate by Sexual Minorities” with Patricia Tetreault, Peter Meidlinger and Debra Hope. Returning to the university as a staff member, Fette serves on the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identity, has worked on the Climate Assessment and continues to advocate for LGBTQA+ students, staff and faculty by addressing issues and making suggestions that will make the campus more inclusive for everyone.
In the community, Fette has served as vice president and a member of Outlinc and continues to be active in the Lincoln and Omaha LGBTQA+ communities. A nominator wrote that, “Ryan has served as an exemplary leader, resource and advocate for all things related to inclusion.”
Director of student development, College of Engineering
Skidmore is involved in supporting LGBTQA+ students on both the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha campuses through work in the college, and through consistent time, energy and advocacy in the broader Lincoln and Omaha communities. Skidmore works to make the engineering community stand out for being a welcoming space in part by advising the oSTEM Chapter at Nebraska.
In addition to supporting and advocating for students, a nominator wrote that, “Jen coaches colleagues from a place of mutual respect and learning” in how they can help support the LGBTQA+ population, especially in reference to career development. Skidmore oversees Career Services, as well as co-curricular programming, for the College of Engineering and serves on the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identity.
2021 student recipient
Research assistant and doctoral student in the Department of Psychology
Harp founded and serves as president of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Chapter of the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, a student organization that caters to the needs of the university’s LGBTQA+ graduate and professional students. More recently, Harp has worked with another member to develop an outreach project that provides anonymous support to LGBTQA+ international students, especially those who may come from cultural backgrounds where their identities are not accepted and may even be criminalized.
As a member of the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identity, Harp has represented the commission on a team of nonprofit organizations and community organizers to offer a free legal name change clinic for trans and nonbinary individuals in the greater Lincoln area. One of Harp’s nominators writes, “Nick is having a big impact on many different groups and units throughout the institution but is unquestionably having the largest impact as it relates to the LGBTQA+ community.”
2021 staff recipients
Assistant director of business, contracts and student services, University Housing
Burger is passionate about creating an inclusive environment in University Housing that provides a welcoming place for the LGBTQA+ community, including work on the gender-inclusive option advertised on housing contracts. University Housing has been making strides toward bettering the experience for, and creating an inclusive, safe environment for, the LGBTQA+ population on campus. Burger has played an integral role in creating the process Housing uses to reserve spaces and create that safe environment for students.
According to a nominator, “(Burger) constantly encourages staff to attend LGBTQA+ trainings and encourages healthy conversations about our students in this community, their experiences, and their struggles.” Burger’s dedication is evidenced in committee work, which includes the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identity, Non-Binary Gender Values Steering Committee, Gender Equity Process in Housing, and the Mental Health and Wellness Sub-Committee of the chancellor’s commissions.
Manager of special events and projects, Information Technology Client Services
What began as a free-standing Committee on GLBT Concerns nearly 30 years ago, became the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Gender and Sexual Identity in 2019, largely due to Svehla’s efforts. As the inaugural chairperson, Svehla represents the reinvigorated commission and the LGBTQA+ community on campus. This leadership effort has resulted in an intersectional approach to diversity, inclusion and equity where the Chancellor’s Commissions on the Status of Women, People of Color, and Gender and Sexual Identity support and work together.
Svehla has worked on the bylaws for the commission, formalizing the gender-inclusive restrooms policy, and serves on the University of Nebraska Central Administration’s Gender Values Steering Committee. Working with IT colleagues, Svehla has helped elevate the conversation that has led to an environment where the new NU-system policy on chosen name and gender identity is moving forward. As a member of the former committee and chair of the commission, Svehla has assisted with education, helped facilitate collaborative programming, and organized networking opportunities for LGBTQA+ staff and faculty, as well as connecting the campus to the local community by facilitating participation in Star City Pride.