Montana State University

Engineers Without Borders at MSU one of four finalists for $20,000 national award

May 13, 2011 -- MSU News Service


In the past seven years, Engineers Without Borders, a student-run organization at Montana State University that provides clean water and sanitary latrines to schools in Kenya, has benefited an estimated 3,500 Kenyans, but it is just the beginning of work estimated to take 40 to 50 years to complete. Photo courtesy of Engineers Without Borders at MSU.   High-Res Available

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The student-led chapter of Engineers Without Borders at Montana State University has won regional recognition for its work in bringing clean water to Kenyan schools and is now one of four finalists nationally vying for a $20,000 prize. (To view a slideshow of EWB at MSU's work, click here.)

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, APLU, recently announced that EWB at MSU won one of four W.K. Kellogg Outreach Scholarship Awards. It will now compete against community outreach programs at Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Tennessee Knoxville for the C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award. The Magrath award carries at $20,000 prize.

EWB at MSU will be presented with the Kellogg award the 12th Annual National Outreach Scholarship Conference, Oct. 24, at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, Mich. The Kellogg award comes with a $5,000 prize to be used for the group's efforts.

"These projects exemplify the outreach and engagement commitment of public universities," said APLU President Peter McPherson. "We salute each of these model engagement programs which feature students, faculty and administrators working in their community to improve the quality of life for all."

Established in 2006, the Outreach Scholarship and Magrath University Community Engagement Awards recognize four-year public universities that have redesigned their learning, discovery and engagement functions to become more closely and productively involved with their communities.

Since 2004, EWB at MSU has brought seven clean drinking water wells to schools in western Kenya, helping more than 3,500 students and teachers. The group has raised more than $375,000 in donations and maintains more than 60 students from across the university as members.

EWB at MSU is committed to bringing clean drinking water to 58 schools in western Kenya, a project that could take decades. Its success depends so heavily on a health collaboration with the Kenyan people that students involved frequently describe it as "a social project with an engineering component."

"These students work incredibly hard," said Otto Stein, EWB at MSU's faculty adviser. "Their dedication to this project is awe-inspiring. They are putting in thousands of volunteer hours to improve the lives of the people in Kenya."

EWB at MSU was also one of 15 MSU projects that helped the university earn the Carnegie Foundation's community engagement classification in January. The classification brings national recognition to MSU's commitment to teaching that encourages volunteer service in communities and the spreading of knowledge that benefits the public.

MSU currently enjoys two Carnegie classifications. It is one of only 311 universities with the community engagement classification and is one of only 108 universities with a "very high level of research activity" out of roughly 4,400 colleges and universities nationally.

"We are immensely proud of our students for their work in Kenya," said Doug Steele, MSU vice president for external relations. "Their work inspires all of us to greater things."

The winner of the $20,000 Magrath Award will be announced during the APLU Annual Meeting, Nov. 13-15, at the San Francisco Marriott in San Francisco. EWB at MSU will be competing against Michigan State's 10-year effort to help epilepsy patients in Zambia; the redevelopment projects of Penn State architecture students in Pittsburgh and the efforts of faculty and students at the University of Tennessee to help a Burmandi immigrant community adapt to Knoxville.

The winner of the Magrath Award will be able to use the funds to advance their program.

The Magrath Award is made possible by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992-2005, and a leading advocate for public universities embracing the concept of outreach and community engagement.

APLU is the nation's oldest higher education association, dedicated to research and advocacy for public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state university systems. Member campuses enroll more than 3.6 million undergraduate and 1.1 million graduate students, employ more than 670,000 faculty and administrators, and conduct nearly two-thirds of all university-based research, totaling more than $34 billion annually. For more information, visit www.aplu.org

For other stories on EWB at MSU read:
"MSU students work toward ambitious goal in Kenya," Feb. 7, 2011

"Engineers Without Borders partner to speak Wednesday at MSU," Jan. 19, 2009

"Students raise $30,000 in one night for clean water in Kenya," March 14, 2008

"Water's Burden," from the Spring 2007 issue of Mountains & Minds

"Kenya offers lessons for MSU students," April 15, 2007

"MSU students overcome obstacles to help Kenyan school," May 22, 2006

"MSU engineering students plan to bring water to Kenyan village," Feb. 8, 2005

Contact: Otto Stein, EWB at MSU faculty adviser, 406-994-6121, ottos@ce.montana.edu; Doug Steele, vice president of external relations, 406-994-3293, dsteele@montana.edu; Tracy Ellig, MSU News Service, 406-994-5607, tellig@montana.edu