“I would like to do something with my degree that helps other people,” said Juan Lucena. Lucena is a professor in the LAIS department and presented his Humanitarian Engineering workshop that hit on many topics.
Lucena also said, “my life has been very blessed and full of opportunities that I would like to share with those less fortunate. Put in a more selfish way, I would like to work in a job where I feel like I am doing good for the world in a very tangible way. I have a great (engineering) education that I want to put to good use.”
In the past few years, Mines students have slowly developed and spread this mindset. The idea of combining technical skill with philanthropy has created the profession of Humanitarian Engineer, a minor that is now offered at Mines. To begin, Lucena gave a brief overview of humanitarian engineering, hitting on its growing demand in industry and the fast-paced evolution of engineering issues as a whole. After, the majority of the workshop was devoted to students and humanitarian engineering experts reflecting and providing suggestions on four different questions Lucena posed to them. First, what opportunity might a student be missing in going to the field of humanitarian engineering? Second, what chances should this student be taking? Next, what barriers are keeping this student from finding a fulfilling job right away? And finally, who should this student be following as exemplars? These four questions sparked enormous conversation and a variety of answers. The majority of responses tended to focus on the lack of opportunities the field currently has, the likely pay cut and lack of benefits a student would have to take by choosing a humanitarian engineering career, and the risky decisions they would have to make in choosing their career path when getting into the workforce.
After all of these challenges in the humanitarian field were highlighted and discussed, Lucena pointed out the unique opportunities and benefits of the humanitarian field. He encouraged students to keep the fire for philanthropy alive even when working in an average engineering job by advocating with a humanitarian organization, starting their own organization, working for NGOs, or becoming a “change agent” within their company by proposing and bringing a new branch of charity to their business. The students left Ballroom C aware of the challenges ahead of them but also focused on the great benefits and fulfillment available. Colorado School of Mines has one of the first humanitarian engineering minors in the nation, and with a combination of the passion and education this school provides, these students look to the future with a hopeful sight of the direct impact they each can make around the globe.