It’s one thing to know you want to do something, and entirely another to know how to do it. By my sophomore year of college, I was convinced that access to safe infrastructure was a fundamental right, and that working for global equity meant increasing access and opportunity through essential infrastructure improvements. I knew I wanted to use my engineering degree in the field of international development, but I had no direction. The field seemed impenetrable to me, having grown up not even knowing what international development was, or that you could do it as an engineer. The career center at my university admitted they really didn’t have any resources for engineers in international development. The few veterans in the field that I was able to meet told me I’d probably have to join the Peace Corps – something I didn’t want to do, because they have no opportunities for engineers outside of teaching math or science.
I was part of EIA for three years as a student, and it was the highlight and driving purpose of my college career. Actually, I started out college as a chemical engineer, but switched to civil engineering my freshman year expressly for the purpose of making it into Notre Dame’s EIA student chapter. EIA fit perfectly into place with my desire to work in community-focused international development, even if I didn’t have a name for it at the time. I would’ve considered working post-graduation with EIA, but I figured it wouldn’t be possible, that there wouldn’t be opportunities or that life would take me a different direction. My senior spring, I was still struggling to find a meaningful post-grad opportunity, and was on the verge of accepting a job in transportation engineering that I was less than thrilled with. Then EIA put out a call for Bridge Corps Fellows to work in Bolivia or Eswatini, and I thought, this is it.
There are more and more students in today’s universities looking for opportunities to be globally-minded engineers and work for equitable infrastructure. There are precious few jobs for them, though, and those that exist seem impossible to get for students with little guidance or connections in the field. I’ve learned through my own experience that EIA is not just building bridges, that EIA is not just driving community development (though it does those things exceptionally well), but that it is increasing awareness and creating opportunity for young, globally-minded engineers. That is no small thing in a world facing unprecedented challenges in sustainable and resilient infrastructure in the face of challenges such as rising populations and global warming. To be able to contribute to that mission, to shape the future of this organization, to build my experience and knowledge in this field — goes beyond what I had dared to hope for my early career. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to grow alongside our world-class team, our committed and talented local staff, and the energetic, dedicated students that make up the heart of our organization.