From a quiet rural Mineral County home to the buzz and bling of Sin City, Bridget Kelly has had her sights set on fairness, justice, and the greater truth. As the data and operations manager for the Cannon Survey Center and a community engagement fellow, she leads a team of staff and students who specialize in running surveys and reporting on the resulting data for UNLV researchers and community clients. This information sheds light on pressing issues of the day, from public health to criminal justice, which is Kelly’s area of expertise. She is working on her doctorate in criminology and criminal justice with a focus on corrections.
What attracted you to UNLV?
I grew up in rural Nevada, where the nearest city was Hawthorne, population 5,000 at the time. I always wanted to be in the big city. UNLV was the most diverse, biggest school. I had the Millennium Scholarship, so that made it possible for me to come here.
For people who are unfamiliar, what is the Cannon Survey Center? Why is it an important piece of UNLV’s community engagement mission?
The Cannon Survey Center is a data collection resource for research and assessment. That information ends up informing organizational decisions and public policy.
We just finished a series of two surveys that will help shape the 1 October memorial. It gives planners a sense of what it should be like, what its features it should include, and what its primary focus should be. It’s something that will mark an important moment in our community and help frame our collective experience.
We also run Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a major source of public health data that is intended to identify trends and priorities for the state of Nevada and the country.
What’s the biggest misconception you encounter about the Cannon Survey Center?
People don’t know we exist. We had been working to overcome that problem pre-COVID by hosting group discussions with researchers, especially during Research Week. We’re planning to do more outreach. Right now, people primarily find us through word of mouth and, if you Google “survey centers,” you’ll end up finding out about us. Our work with the office of community engagement has been great for getting our name out there, too.
What does it mean to be a community engagement fellow?
I do a lot of work with the office of community engagement. They wanted more information about the community engagement activities UNLV is involved in campuswide, and they also wanted a survey of our community partners and their experience with [UNLV]. I have done quite a bit of consulting with them, offering survey advice, survey design, and strategies for how to use the data. Being named a community engagement fellow was a recognition of the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I really want to put more effort into helping that office build out their ability to track the services and contributions that UNLV brings the community.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that we work with so many students. It’s really fulfilling to watch them develop their professionalism and start coming up with ideas for improving our systems, from project tracking to report writing.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
It’s funny, but it’s the same answer as the what I love most about the job — working with so many students. Managing students and the workload, it’s a challenge for sure.
Other challenges we have come from keeping up with new trends in the field. We’re a call center, but few people now feel comfortable answering the phone or providing information about themselves over the phone. We hope to expand our methods to include texting and greater use of online tools.
Your expertise is in criminal justice and sociology, how does this inform your work at the Cannon Survey Center?
My work in criminal justice is essentially research on social issues. The research methods I use in my field really prepared me for the research side of my work at the Cannon Survey Center. I nerd out on survey design and consulting on survey questions, making sure the way we ask questions doesn’t skew the response.
Pastimes or hobbies?
Swing dance and the art of bonsai – I’m not great at it, but I sure like designing and trying to care for my bonsai trees.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Most people are surprised when I tell them exactly how rural the place is that I grew up. My childhood home is a cabin, no electricity, no running water. I did my homework by oil lamp – candles will only go so far. You learn tricks, like putting a pie tin behind the glass to amplify the light. My dad supported us by claim staking for mining companies. He would hike up the mountain with wooden stakes for mines and hike back down with soil and mineral samples for the mining companies. Living in that situation is unusual for someone born in my time.
Any book recommendations?
I’m reading, You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacy: Crazy Stories About Racism, by Amber Ruffin and her sister Lacy Lamar. They tell stories about slights and experiences that aren’t probably funny, but they tell it with humor in way a that is relatable, eye opening, and important. It’s a good read.