Annabel Shephard


Graduate Student in Wood Science and Engineering and Civil Engineering

Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

Built Environment Queer Project

"You are equal to the task at hand. If you feel out of place, it is not because you are. There is a reason you are here. Hold yourself tall with the confidence that knowledge brings and participate in conversations, ask questions, and do not be afraid to be loud. Great opportunities come from conversation, from relationships, from mentorship, but none are possible if no one can hear you. Speak up!"

Q&A with Participant:

  1. Describe your current position.
  2. As a graduate student I primarily conduct research. The focus of my work is the structural behavior of engineered timber when exposed to fire. At present, I am investigating the fire performance of timber-concrete composite floors through experimental tests.

  3. What is your educational background?
  4. I received my undergraduate degree from OSU in Civil Engineering. Currently, I am pursuing a master's in both Wood Science and Engineering and Civil Engineering.

  5. What do you love about your career?
  6. The exchange of ideas and ability to contribute to a larger conversation. In my position I have been able to attend conferences and serve in leadership for local organizations. Be it engineering or social justice issues I enjoy being able to work with others, identify a common problem, and find a solution.

  7. Do you incorporate your queer identity in your career? How?
  8. Yes, my queer identity is always present (assisted by my rainbow key chain commonly seen dangling from my pocket). More seriously, I serve as an officer for OSU's local chapter of Out in STEM (oSTEM). Our mission is to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals across STEM disciplines and create an affirming community that provides aid, empathy, and opportunity. I have always been transparent about my identity in my workspaces, but even more so now as I feel it my responsibility in this position to serve as a role model for the community.

  9. Have you ever had a negative experience in a professional environment that was related to your queer identity? How did you deal with it?
  10. Yes. I have encountered a variety of things in professional environments including transphobic comments indirectly, homophobic slurs, and microaggressions. For the most part, people are well intended and are unaware of the impact of what they are saying. Engaging them in a conversation of how their words are hateful or simply correcting them resolves the problem. I have been fortunate in that these encounters have not been more severe and not required more attention than this.

  11. What role has mentorship played in your career? Do you have a queer mentor?
  12. Mentors are indispensable. The pivotal opportunities I have had have been granted in someway through mentorship. Though I have had fantastic professional mentors, none of them have been queer (to my knowledge). Our local chapter of oSTEM is working to establish a queer/trans-STEM mentorship program for students to ensure everyone is seen, heard, and receives the support they need.

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