Michelle Liu (they/them)

Giving Back Working Group Member, Past Council Chair
Michelle Liu

Degree: Civil Engineering, BASc 2018, MASc 2020
LinkedIn: Michelle Liu

What are you doing now and how does your engineering education from Waterloo help with your life today?
I am a Queer, non-binary, and racialized engineer, speaker, lawyer-to-be (JD ’23), and researcher using socio-legal frameworks to critically examine the interactions between technological designs and hegemonic norms. This is the focus of my ongoing engineering PhD studies, for which I received both the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (NSERC stream) and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship. I am presently a research associate at the University of Ottawa and Toronto Metropolitan University as well as an editor with the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law and an articling student at Ecojustice Canada. I believe that my ability to undertake this amount and diversity of work flows come partly from the time management and problem-solving skills I developed through my BASc and MASc at Waterloo. Moreover, my experience with engineering education and my practice as an engineer constitute an important backdrop against which I conduct my PhD research. 200 words is not enough to describe the impact engineering education from Waterloo has had on me, so please reach out if you would like to learn more!

Why did you decide to be a part of REAC?
Being marginalized at various intersections as a Queer, racialized, and non-binary person has led to my lifelong desire to support and make space for members of equity-seeking groups. I am especially passionate about making engineering programs and the engineering discipline more inclusive of diversely situated and identified individuals. I believe being a part of REAC—including as past Chair—is one of the ways I can help our engineers of the future better serve and protect the interest of all members of the public, starting from ensuring equity-seeking persons in the engineering discipline feel included and empowered.

What is a favourite piece of advice or quote that you would be interested in sharing?
My BASc, the two years of co-op experience, and my MASc has benefitted me in so many ways. Who would have thought that the time management, logical, and analytical thinking skills we gain in engineering would have served me so well on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and law school? Who knew that coming from another professional discipline would make me stand out to law firms? What you get out of an engineering degree is so broadly applicable that you cannot run out of options after you graduate. My favourite quote that my ally and mentor Deanna Burgart shared with me is “when you are accustomed to privilege, equity feels like oppression."

What was your favourite place to eat at in Waterloo?
Jane Bond and Arabella Park Beer are my favourite places in Kitchener-Waterloo. Jane Bond is a vegetarian and Queer-friendly place in Uptown Waterloo. The music can sometimes be very loud, and the space is sometimes very white, but the food and beer choices are always excellent! Arabella Park Beer is on Belmont in Kitchener and is a clean, simple dig for craft beers and small plates. Cheers!

What are your plans for the near future?
On the education front, I am aiming to complete my ongoing engineering PhD by 2025. I also hope to begin a one-year Master’s in Law (LLM) in 2024 and complete it simultaneously. Professionally, I am on track to completing my articling in May 2024 and receiving my law license (being “called to the bar”) in June 2024. I also hope to obtain a position as a faculty member at uOttawa Law for July 2025. On the advocacy/service front, I hope to run for PEO Council again in 2025 and continue supporting OSPE’s EDIA efforts as Co-Chair of the EDIA Task Force.

Finally, do you have any fun and/or interesting media recommendations? Could be a book, song, movie, documentary, videogame, etc.
I love books that critique, deconstruct, and move away from the hegemony and the normative. Some books I read recently that I enjoyed are “Love’s Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities” (Kevin Patterson, 2018), “A History of My Brief Body” (Billy-Ray Belcourt, 2020) and “On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life” (Sara Ahmed, 2012). A documentary I watched recently that I enjoyed is “Big Fight in Little Chinatown” (2022) by Karen Cho, who also made “In the Shadow of Gold Mountain” (2004). I have many more book and documentary recommendations in these veins and welcome you to reach out about them!