An effort to get freshman members more involved is paying dividends for one student organization at the University of Kansas School of Engineering.
Engineers Without Borders is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities worldwide to improve their quality of life through sustainable engineering projects. The KU student chapter has more than 60 members. During the last school year, KU-EWB launched an initiative to encourage freshmen to be more active and invested in the organization.
“Through the Freshman Engineers Without Borders program, we had the chance to brainstorm about projects, and then plan and implement them,” said Brett Wagner, KU EWB’s social chairman. “It’s not just about standard EWB projects. We also had study groups and a lot of encouragement from others in the group to get involved. We had opportunities that helped us grow as leaders, get to know each other better, and succeed in school.”
Wagner, a sophomore in civil engineering, is one of about 20 returning students who were active last year in the Freshman EWB program. Current EWB President Ryan Endres and past President Jessica Haberstock launched the effort during the 2012-2013 academic year.
“We feel the Freshman EWB program, which is based on a similar program within Engineering Student Council, dissolved the disconnect between new members and the rest of the group,” Endres said. “It enables all members to feel involved and that their work is meaningful. Additionally, we were able to give several freshmen opportunities to be in charge and lead a project, which is something that is hard to find in your first year.”
Last year’s freshman class led a Halloween-themed food drive to benefit ECKAN and for the holidays, they gathered toys and food for Lawrence’s Ballard Community Services to provide gifts for underprivileged children in the Lawrence area. The first-year students also worked with Rebuild Joplin (Mo.) to assist the town after a May 2011 tornado killed 158 people and destroyed about 2,000 buildings, roughly 20 percent of the town.
“We unloaded more than 1,000 trees from semi into a tree nursery and worked on a roof and insulation on a home being rebuilt. The freshman really contributed,” Endres said.
KU’s Freshman EWB program is back for its second year. This year’s group also has the opportunity to select, plan and implement events and fundraisers.
“It’s a great opportunity for freshmen to get involved and feel invested. You can meet other freshman with similar goals and aspirations, and really make a difference,” Wagner said.