Katherine Etter: Finding the Balance – Engineering, Political Leadership and Mentoring

Biomedical Engineering student Katherine “Kade” Etter (Spring ’08) is sharpening her mastery of juggling, a skill that will serve her well in her career – whether medicine or law, or a marriage of both. Careful time management and focus allow Kade to balance competing demands in her roles as Senior Development Advisor of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), Community Assistant in the Northwest dorm, and a Biomedical Engineering undergraduate enrolled in the University’s Honors Program. Enjoy Kade’s profile below:

High school: Essex Junction High School, Vermont

What attracted you to UConn?
First, UConn is an academically prestigious institution, ranked the number one public university in New England. Also, UConn offers Biomedical Engineering as an undergraduate program while most universities offer only a graduate level degree. I had some family influence. My father, a Connecticut native, is an alumnus (B.S. Mechanical Engineering, ’79).

Ultimately, I liked the fact that UConn students are actively involved not only in academics, but also other areas of interest. Students benefit from a well-rounded college experience that blends academics with other activities.

Impressions: The School of Engineering has an innovative approach to education and student life. Freshmen are grouped together in courses to facilitate the development of friendships, encourage group projects, and provide a support network for classes. UConn’s foresight in requiring group projects and individual presentations mirrors current trends in industry. Additionally, undergraduates have numerous opportunities to conduct research. Combine these opportunities with the rest of the engineering program and our graduates are among the best prepared for the future.

Faculty role models: Birgit Kaufmann (Physics) and Mei Wei (Materials Science & Engineering) are female faculty members who balance teaching and research responsibilities with their personal lives. They demonstrate that women can be strong in the difficult sciences, yet not sacrifice a life outside of academics. Young female engineers need to know they can have it all: it’s about balance.

Beyond Engineering: As Senior Development Advisor of the Undergraduate Student Government, I am tasked with advising and overseeing our current agenda, working on leadership development within the organization, providing alternative views on how different components of the organization could work more efficiently, and assisting in the administration of our $1.2 million budget.

Our agenda includes:

  • Development of a student Honor Code
  • Fostering a greater sense of community
  • Establishing a consistent policy governing academic advising

Before becoming USG Development Advisor, I served as Speaker of the Undergraduate Student Government. I’m the first engineering student and third woman to have held that position. Prior to being USG Speaker and the Academic senator for Engineering, I served as Towers Residential Senator, followed by McMahon. I developed this passion for politics while serving as a U.S. Senate Page for Senator Leahy (D-VT) and later, as a summer intern in the U.S. House of Representatives.

I’m also a Community Assistant (CA) in Northwest, where I guide freshman transitioning into the university community. This year, I have the additionally responsibility of having the Leadership Living Community. I serve as an advisor and mentor to the leadership development class that the residents take as part of the community. Remaining organized has been key to my being able to branch out from just engineering academics. I’m a true believer in setting priorities, planning and making lists.

Career plans:
I’m keeping my options open. My first love has always been medicine; however I’ve been drawn to politics and law. With a Biomedical Engineering base, either medicine or law will allow me to focus on future medical challenges. After a few years working in either field, I plan to re-engage my political aspirations. There will be many changes in medicine in the coming years, and I will be involved in those changes.

Categories: Biomedical Engineering, eFrontier News, Headline, Honors program, Katherine Etter, Leadership, Mentorship