The Engineering Newsletter

EWB co-founder inspires First Year students

  EWB co-founder inspires First Years

By Kate Brand Tippin and Jen Hsu

First Year Engineering students packed Convocation Hall September 10 to begin their 2009-2010 academic year with an inspiring “First Lecture” by co-founder of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), George Roter. Roter captivated the audience of emerging global leaders and encouraged them to define how they will contribute to making a better society.

In his lecture, Roter spoke about the growing role Engineers play in our increasingly connected global world. EWB prepares future generations to confront the challenges presented by today's world and provides opportunites for members to think critically and ask tough questions. Roter asked the First Year students to answer two questions during his lecture: (1) Write three words to describe Engineering’s contribution to society in 2020; (2) What is something you would like to accomplish by 2020?

All students wrote their answers on a note card and EWB members collected the cards to be posted in a future public forum. Four students read their ambitious, hopeful responses, and one First Year Engineering student said she plans to help people by improving our medical technologies.

Roter co-founded EWB in January 2000 and has been recognized as one of Canada’s emerging leaders in the non-profit sector. His dedication to building organizations that engage a broad cross-section of Canadians, and specifically foster the involvement of our country’s next cohort of leaders. In 2001, EWB created professional and student-run chapters to further promote human development; 26 Chapters were created at campuses across Canada. The U of T EWB Chapter is led by co-Presidents Mike Klassen and Mina Shahid for 2009-2010.

“I believe being a global Engineer starts with the perspective that the future can be radically different from the present, and that our actions can lead to substantial change,” said Klassen, who was recognized with the Leaders of the Future Award by EWB, and the Professional Engineers of Ontario Foundation for Education.

Roter is a frequent speaker at conferences and events across North America and was awarded the Public Policy Forum’s prestigious Leaders for the Future Award in 2007. In 2005, he was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 and, in 2004, he was awarded an Action Canada Fellowship on public policy. He was featured by Time magazine as one of Canada’s next generation of social leaders in 2001, and was a member of the delegation that accompanied Governor General Michaëlle Jean on her first State visit to Africa in 2006. He serves on the Board of Directors for a number of non-profit organizations, including Volunteer Canada, the country’s leading organization in promoting volunteerism.

Social agents like Roter and last year's inaugural speaker Stephen Lewis inspire critical thinking and imagining a better future for generations to come. Their influence and motivation extends to businesses and institutions as well. At U of T, an Engineering degree means contributing to innovative solutions that address the world’s most critical challenges – from building stronger materials that create more stable bridges and roadways, to providing technological advances that keep our drinking water clean.

With the recent creation of the Faculty’s Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) and new minors in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Engineering, globalization in Engineering is introduced to First Year students and helps them expand on their dreams of what contributions they will bring to Engineering in 2020.

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