The Engineering Newsletter

Engineers Without Borders leaders plan year of growth


By Kate Brand Tippin

This year’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) U of T Chapter executive is channeling their momentum to inspire action and provide leadership in fighting against extreme poverty with several new initiatives and a more refined approach.

The Chapter hosted its first Faculty Breakfast Friday, September 25 with administrative and academic leaders, EWB members, other U of T student club leaders, and several EWB Chapter Presidents from across Canada. At the breakfast, EWB executives distributed their first Faculty Newsletter –highlighting recent accomplishments and forthcoming activities – to encourage faculty and staff to engage with the organization.

The Newsletter staff caught up with EWB Co-Presidents Mike Klassen and Mina Shahid who are accountable for the overall success of the Chapter and responsible for helping Chapter members achieve their maximum potential and improve their leadership skills.

Mike Klassen | Co-President | Engineering Science Energy Systems Engineering, 1T0 + PEY

1. What do you hope your personal contribution to society will be in 20 years?
In 20 years, I hope to have unleashed the potential of hundreds of social change leaders in Canada and in countries in Africa. I hope to have challenged and changed government policies to effectively serve the people they are meant to serve. I hope to have successfully started and supported innovative social businesses that create opportunities for people living in extreme poverty. I hope to be a stronger leader and a better global citizen.

2. Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who believe in their own ability to create change. Saifu Li, a Second Year Industrial Engineer, who challenges his own assumptions on whether hanging a Global Engineer banner will create change in people who walk by and see it. Lisa Romkey, the EngSci curriculum mastermind who creates new courses and re-designs curriculum on a term-by-term basis instead of just talking about it. Alfred Mungamelo, my counterpart in Zambia, who grew up in rural poverty and is so determined to use his abilities to the betterment of his fellow Zambians. He works long and hard to improve sanitation coverage in rural communities and ultimately believes that he can create significant change in his country.

3. What book is currently on your nightstand?
The Origin of Wealth by Eric D. Beinhocker challenges traditional assumptions about economics and analyzes the economy as a complex adaptive system. It’s refreshing and mentally stimulating.
The Courage to Lead by Brian Stanfield explores everyday leadership and pushes questions of intention, motivation and reflection to the forefront. I read it to unwind and process everything going on in my life.

4. Words of advice to prospective Engineering students?
If you’re not expanding your interests, ideas and horizons, then they are contracting. Engineering will challenge you and provide an incredibly strong technical background, but you need to put yourself out there and try new things to discover where you can contribute to the world. I think the biggest growth at university happens outside of the classroom, and it’s in your hands to make that happen. Worry less about your career, and spend time thinking about your calling. What is the intersection of your passion, your skills and the world’s needs? Finding a truly fulfilling area and committing yourself to it is much more rewarding than simply having a job that pays well.

5. What can engineering faculty and staff do to help EWB?
Reflect on the current system of Faculties, Departments and disciplines that we all participate in creating. Ask if this system is serving students, and ultimately serving society by giving Engineering students the breadth and depth of diverse experiences to confront the world’s most pressing and complex problems. If each faculty and staff member can leverage their unique position to change and shift the system, the incredible potential of the next generation of global Engineering leaders will be unleashed. I highly encourage any interested faculty or staff to drop by our EWB Office in GB131 and speak with whoever is there. The depth of critical thinking and leadership in our chapter is immense, and every conversation is filled with possibility.

Mina Shahid | EWB Co-President | Mechanical Engineering, OT9+PEY

1. Why did you become involved in EWB?
Entering my second year of university, I realized that all the studying I did in First Year did no good to anyone. I was unsatisfied with my current contribution to the world, and I wanted to break out of the mold of a solely academic student. I felt that EWB could give me the opportunity to learn more about global issues, develop my leadership skills, and use my problem skills to serve society. I’m happy to say that I’ve gained all of these things, and much more from my involvement over the past three years.

2. Who inspires you?
Ms. Yvonne is a woman from Kambinda Village who took me into her home when I volunteered with EWB in Zambia in the summer of 2008. As a widow with two sons, she works tirelessly to create a future without poverty for her children. She is relentless in getting her two sons to university, and every moment of the day she works hard to break out of the poverty cycle. She’s a farmer, an entrepreneur in a women’s micro-enterprise, a care giver for orphans of AIDS, a community health worker, and most of all an embodiment of the ownership so many Africans have towards working their way out of poverty. People like Ms. Yvonne inspire me to wake up in the morning and face the challenges of creating a world where geography doesn’t dictate prosperity.

3. What keeps you up at night?
As Co-President of the EWB Chapter at U of T, many things keep me up at night. But above all, trying to understand how our chapter can have more impact at U of T, and how myself and Mike Klassen can support our members to reach their maximum potential, really keep me up! How can we support the younger members of the chapter to help them develop into the next generation of social change leaders? How do we support our executive to create innovative and challenging opportunities for impact at U of T? How do we ensure our accountability to people like Ms. Yvonne? These are a few of the many questions that keep me up at night, and get me energized to create change in the world!

4. What book is currently on your nightstand?
I’m currently reading An Imperfect Offering by Dr. James Orbinski, former president of Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). The book is a passionate and honest story about Dr. Orbinski’s experience with the dangers and complexities of humanitarian work in developing countries. The book reaffirms my commitment to serve society, and create a socially just world.

5. What is your next step after U of T Engineering?
After Engineering, I would like to go back to Africa for an extended period. I have a lot more to learn about international development and global poverty issues and I feel that I can really contribute to poverty alleviation in Africa. I’d also like to go back to school and complete a Masters in Development Studies in the UK, and ultimately work in the development sector full time.

Introducing the 2009-2010 U of T EWB Chapter Executive

Charlene Barker
Co-VP School Outreach

Sabrina Tang
VP Faculty Relations

David Luu
School Outreach Director

Amanda Lombardi
Co-VP School Outreach

Kelvin Lui
VP Chapter Development

Yazan Kawar
VP Member Learning

Amir Allana
VP Public Outreach

Michael Bosompra
Junior Fellow

Stephane De Vuyst
VP Finance

Manasvini Vaidyula
VP Communications

Tim Chen
IT Consultant

Janice Cheng
Frosh Week Coordinator

Michelle Chen
Frosh Week Coordinator, EWB High School Conference Co-Chair

Neil Isaac
IT Consultant

U of T EWB Chapter Goals for 2009-2010

1. Provide opportunities for Canadians to help people living in extreme poverty.
2. Increase knowledge of international development and developing countries amongst our members.
3. Empower students to learn actively and to challenge the education system when their values and expectations are not met.
4. Collaborate internally between Chapter portfolios and externally with other university clubs.
5. Dispel misconceptions and change attitudes about Africa and its people.
6. Build personal connections within the Chapter and with Africa.

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