UM Chapter of Engineers Without Borders Extends Services to Global, Local Community

April 2010 By

OXFORD, Miss. - When a small group of University of Mississippi engineering students decided that they wanted to serve the needs of the global community last September, they had no idea so many would be willing to join them in their endeavors.

"This year we worked with the Office of Sustainability on game day recycling and regularly with Habitat for Humanity," said Rebecca Werner, a civil engineering major from Diamondhead. "The outpouring of volunteers to assist in the Habitat house displays people's cheerful willingness to serve."

From those initial projects arose the campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA. And while the chapter remains committed to serving the Lafayette-Oxford-University community, its 173 members retain their original mission of going abroad in service as well.

EWB-USA is a nonprofit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide to improve quality of life. The partnerships involve implementing sustainable engineering projects while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students.

Werner serves as vice president of the chapter. Other officers include Matthew Rushing, president, a chemical engineering major from Ridgeland; Sarah Sams, treasurer, a civil engineering major from Jackson; Anna Hailey, secretary, a chemical engineering, Chinese and chemistry major from Muscle Shoals, Ala.; Jonathan Jones, executive coordinator, a chemical engineering major from Long Beach; Pablo Mariaca, executive officer, a civil engineering major from Bolivia; and Susie Nguyen, webmaster, a chemical engineering and biochemistry major from Oxford.

"The School of Engineering and other administrative units of our university have been giving the EWB chapter full support during its incubation period and are committed to its healthy growth in the future," said Wei-Yin Chen, professor of chemical engineering and faculty adviser for the chapter. "The UM chapter of EWB-USA will offer engineering service opportunities and cultivate lifelong learning spirits of the engineering profession. This, in turn, is expected to impact the lives of the less-privileged citizens of the world."

The group meets weekly to discuss upcoming challenges, including fundraising and project establishment. Members are evaluating several potential international projects in Central America, South America and Asia. By October, they plan to have chosen a project location where they will commit themselves for the next five to 10 years.

"We will have submitted a formal proposal to EWB-USA describing sustainable projects in that one community that we will have the ability to undertake," Werner said. "From this point forward, the Ole Miss EWB-USA will be assessing the community and its needs and finding appropriate solutions,"

Delegates attended the EWB-USA Southeast Regional workshop in Miami in October and the international conference in Denver over spring break.

"Our aim seemed simple: to apply classroom knowledge in a developing or underdeveloped nation, helping those who could not necessarily help themselves," Werner said. "This past year has taught us much as far as barriers to success and our unique opportunity for service as students."

While engineering students make up the majority of the chapter's membership, students from other fields of study are welcome.

"We encourage students from different majors to apply their knowledge to assist our developing a long-term relationship with a community in need," Werner said. "We utilize differing abilities to identify and permeate potential economic, ecological, cultural and political obstacles. We look to ensure ownership from the community in various projects."

Chapter members said they are deeply appreciative for all the support provided by advisers, the engineering school, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the entire student body.

"We hope that the foundation EWB-USA, Ole Miss has built will help pave the way for the future," Werner said.

For more information about Engineers Without Borders-USA, visit ewb-usa.org. For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit engineering.olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7407.