Kara Nelson

Kara Nelson, associate dean of equity and inclusion at the College of Engineering, is passionate about fostering an inclusive climate in CoE in which every member of our community feels that they belong, their participation is valued, and that they have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. As a member of Berkeley Engineering’s executive leadership team, she aims to ensure that equity and inclusion are prioritized in everything that the College does.  Nelson oversees its large portfolio of programs and activities that advance equity and inclusion, chairs the CoE Council on Equity and Inclusion, and leads the CoE Advancing Faculty Diversity Initiative. She is a resource for all members of the college.

Nelson first became engaged in equity and inclusion efforts through her research and teaching, as a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), which has a large emphasis on developing safe water and sanitation solutions for underserved populations around the globe. In CEE, she previously served as equity adviser and chair of the E&I Committee. Currently, she is the co-director of diversity at the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center on Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt).  She has participated in a wide range of activities that shape and influence her engagement with equity and inclusion, including workshops on expanding potential, the Mosaic Project, achieving equity and diversity in faculty recruitment, and undoing racism.

How do you contribute to Berkeley Engineering’s equity and inclusion mission?
I aim to create safe spaces, and to make myself available for anyone to share their experiences and be heard. My own life experiences are shaped and limited by my identity and white privilege; I constantly strive to learn about experiences that are different from my own. I recognize that I have implicit biases, like everyone, because of my exposure to stereotypes and racism, and I must actively work to overcome them.

What’s something that students and colleagues should know about you?
I’ve been fortunate to live, work and travel in many parts of the world, including Latin America, Africa, India and Europe. I speak Spanish and once knew a few words of Shona and Norwegian.

Besides your work, what’s something that you’re passionate about?
I love food! I love cooking, especially with fresh ingredients from the garden or farmer’s market, and experimenting with or without recipes. I love eating food, all kinds of food, and am fascinated by food traditions around the world.  I love the way sharing a meal brings people together, whether it’s family dinner, a gathering with friends or colleagues, or a night out at one of our amazing local food trucks or restaurants.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would learn to play bass and percussion, without ever having to practice, and be in an all-female band.