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Sasha Minjarez | September 2, 2021

Preparing Students to Become World Changing Peace Engineers

Preparing Students to Become World Changing Peace Engineers


The virtual faculty-led study abroad program: Peace Engineering emerged as a resounding success after bringing eight weeks of a prosperous partnership between faculty, staff and students of The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and Universidad de Piura (UDEP) to a gratifying close. The trailblazing international experience became once more the only study abroad program offered at UTEP in view of the pandemic but also the very first installment thematic of Peace Engineering.

“Participating in the program has been a new experience for me. Although it has been done in the virtual modality like last year, the theme of Peace Engineering has allowed the students to be able to deal directly with the contributions that engineering has in society. It has been a pleasant training experience for the students and an exchange of experiences between the professors and exhibitors of the program,” Daniel Marcelo Aldana, Ph.D., program facilitator of UDEP said.

The program imbued students with the ability to emerge with a renewed engineering perspective that harnessed the duality of both, technical and human aspects that embody Peace Engineering principles.

“Our first ever virtual study abroad program in Peace Engineering was the highlight of my summer. I saw how students evolved in their thinking and understanding that engineering is a people serving profession and how they can connect their technical education to practical on the ground involvement with their communities to improve the quality of life of their residents and thus foster peace.” Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D., program facilitator at UTEP said. “I hope students have found new meaning and purpose to their profession and how engineers have a direct impact on human lives!”

Students had the opportunity to acquire multidisciplinary knowledge from a distinguished panel of guest speakers from across the Americas. The topics presented corresponded to the Peace Engineering discipline which program facilitator Henry Van, Ph.D. says is emerging at the forefront of civilization, ranging from strategic peacebuilding, sustainable human development goals, renewable energy and smart cities.

Although the students couldn’t put in practice their projects due to restrictions symptomatic of the pandemic, Van maintained he intends to seek funding to realize their implementation in the near future. “This course opened the eyes and minds of the students about how extensive Peace Engineering is and how the final objective is always to serve people for the best. They were all inspired to get involved in some fashion in Peace Engineering when they graduate as civil engineers,” Van said.

The presentations were complimented with immersive cultural sessions that allowed students to become acquainted with the enriching customs of El Paso and Peru. In a diverse display of meaningful cultural exchanges, UDEP students were exposed to our culture and UTEP students correspondingly learned about Peruvian culture through food, dance and music.

“It was an honor to be part of this program. We had great guest speakers that have so much experience. Just hearing about projects they have been involved makes me appreciate more the field of engineering. It was challenging to have teammates from another country, but it was so special to learn from them and their culture.” said David Lopez-Molinar, UTEP student.

The course culminated with a final cultural session, a celebration of Peru’s Bicentennial Independence with a lively display of community bond among participants. The closing ceremony was brimming with gratitude from students and faculty alike, reflecting on what a life altering imprint this first Peace Engineering study abroad program left on their lives and what they hope to bring to the lives of those in their communities.

“My experience in the Peace Engineering exchange program was very rewarding. I was able to broaden my knowledge in different technical areas and about the culture of Peru and the United States. It reminded me that there are many things to improve and many people to help. So, now that we know more of the theory, it is up to us to put it into practice and be the change the world needs. Thank you to everyone who has participated in this project,” said Geraldine Gonzalez Gutiérrez, UDEP student.

World renowned key guest speaker Bernard Amadei, Ph.D., professor at University of Colorado Boulder and founder of Engineers Without Borders explained to students that if each person extended kindness to two people a day and those two people did the same causing a ripple effect, it can produce peace for 7.7 billion people in 33 days and that is what the heart and nucleus of Peace Engineering exemplifies, humanity.

Civil Engineering

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