Congratulations to Shea Lombardo, 2020 Graduate Recipient of the PKG Award
by Devon Capizzi
Seamus “Shea” Lombardo has made civic engagement a central tenet of his work at MIT. He is a graduate co-chair for MITvote–a non-partisan student group that focuses on voter registration and increasing student voter turnout rates–and he is the Vice President of the MIT Democrats. He also serves as Federal Affairs chair for the External Affairs Board (EAB) of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), leading conversations with Federal legislators and their staff surrounding student issues.
Having recently earned his Master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Lombardo will now continue on at MIT as a PhD student this Summer. Continuously advancing his studies, Lombardo also seeks ways to piece together his passions outside of the lab with his academic work time and time again, especially in a STEM-centric environment like MIT.
“STEM students vote at the lowest rate of students from any other field of study.” Lombardo says. “That’s a major motivator for me to get involved.” Coming from an undergraduate degree at SUNYBuffalo, Lombardo has long been involved in civic engagement spaces, but not until coming to MIT did this work click into place as something worth investing in so fully. “In my undergrad institution, it was a much more general place. There were Poli-Sci majors and English majors… So, I kind of just viewed being a part of these groups as an extracurricular that I enjoyed,” Lombardo explains. “And then at MIT, I felt like there was a bit of a vacuum there… I saw a lot of otherwise informed and active people, but they didn’t really feel like they had a place or wanted to be involved in the civics sphere.”
Lombardo makes it a point to engage with fellow students and to let them know that they do have a place in civic engagement. They have the right to vote, and they have the opportunity to do so regardless of who they’re voting for, what state or county they’re coming from. “Scientists and engineers certainly have a lot of opinions,” he says. “We should all be involved in civic engagement. There’s a lot of room for improvement there.”
Moving on to the PhD in Summer of 2020, Lombardo is linking public service and engagement even more explicitly to his studies as he joins the Space Enabled Research Group within the MIT Media Lab. “I certainly did a lot of soul searching as I was finishing up my Master’s,” he says. “I think my aerospace work is really exciting, but I was wondering if maybe I could be using my skills for something else… This new group I’ll be working with for my PhD has a mission to advance justice in Earth’s complex systems by using designs enabled by space. So, I felt like it really brought together what had previously been two disparate threads.”
So, what does that look like exactly? While Lombardo is still on the cusp of starting this work, he shares that Space Enabled draws on satellite imagery (that may show deforestation, for example) as well as integrated complex systems modelling–taking into account the environment, human vulnerability and societal impact, human decision-making, and technology design–to address challenges and inform decision making at the intersections of these domains (Learn more about this work here).
“I see all of this work as public service,” Lombardo says. “It’s motivated by my interest in advancing environmental, electoral, and social justice issues.” The PKG Center was pleased to honor Shea’s public service engagements, as he continues to pull on personal investments, advocacy, and politics to create lasting positive change.
To learn more about MITvote, visit them on social media.
To learn about Space Enabled, check them out here.
Tags: PKG Award 2020