A Passion for Building Change. Meet Ethan Gingerich, Bridge Program Director

Posted on: June 30, 2020

It wasn’t until high school that I fully realized the injustice that, despite no doing of my own, I had been born with so many resources and opportunities while so many others around the world had not. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that I had a responsibility to use those resources and opportunities to give back to those less fortunate than me. That led me to major in engineering to learn how to solve problems and help those most in need. After two years of engineering school, though, I was sure I’d made the wrong choice. Rather than becoming a global change-maker, I felt like I had become a dot on a bell curve, pointlessly wasting my life jumping through manufactured academic hoops to get a degree that wouldn’t help anyone but myself. I was clinically depressed and on the verge of dropping out. But that’s when I found out about Bridges to Prosperity (B2P). 

B2P’s mission was to end poverty caused by rural isolation by building footbridges over impassable rivers. Finally, a chance to use my skills to help people! I promptly joined the student chapter at my university and built footbridges in Nicaragua during my final two years. Working alongside those communities and seeing how their lives were transformed by the bridges we built together transformed my life as well. It gave me purpose and motivation to finish my degree and become an engineer who could continue that type of work for life. I began to see how the skills I was learning in my classes could be used to improve our bridge designs and school suddenly felt worthwhile. My teammates became my best friends. I had found my calling and my life’s work, and it was bridge building. 

After graduating I stayed involved with B2P, first as a member of the Board of Directors and later as the part-time University Program Coordinator. It was immensely fulfilling to guide scores of new students each year through the same learning process that had transformed my life and see it transform their lives as well, especially when their work resulted in more footbridges connecting more communities to life-changing resources and opportunities. When B2P made the difficult decision to end their University Program in order to focus on scaling their more lucrative programs, I knew we had to keep it alive. Backed by the support of dozens of passionate alumni like myself, we made the transition to Engineers in Action in 2018 and haven’t looked back. The EIA bridge builder family has allowed me to not only become the global change-maker I sought to be, but mentor hundreds of new students to do the same each  year.