Iowa City, Iowa

When University of Iowa College of Engineering professor Jerald L. Schnoor won the prestigious Clarke Prize, a national award recognizing significant contributions to the area of water research and technology, he traveled to California to accept his $50,000 award and medallion, and give a lecture. He decided to incorporate into his speech information on Iowa engineering students and the work they were doing with his colleague Craig Just through the UI chapters of Engineers Without Borders USA and Engineers for a Sustainable World.

“By the time I finished writing the speech, I realized I wanted to give the money to the students,” says Schnoor.

When Craig L. Just, adjunct associate professor in the UI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and advisor for the student groups, heard the news about his colleague’s gift, he was grateful. He also was inspired to make a gift of his own.

“In a way, this gift was 18 years in the making,” says Just, who has worked in some capacity at the University of Iowa since 1993. “But I also was very touched by Jerry’s generosity.”

Just and his wife, Tracy, who is a hygienist in the College of Dentistry, soon matched Jerry’s gift.

“It wasn’t intended to be a challenge,” laughed Schnoor. “But I’m so pleased that they gave, too.”

UI students are thankful as well. The $100,000 boost to the Engineers for a Sustainable World Fund has enabled more students to participate in service-learning trips to Kobriti, a small village in Ghana, to which the UI Engineers Without Borders USA chapter made a five-year commitment.

“In Ghana, students have the opportunity to work on water sanitation, solar energy, and other basic infrastructure projects that benefit the people of Kobriti,” says Craig Just. He also noted that it is not only engineering students who have the opportunity to travel. In the past, students in business, international studies, and other UI areas also have made the trip.

“A medical student accompanied us on ones of our trips,” says Craig Just. “To see a poor, remote hospital, as compared to a resource-rich facility in the U.S.—that had a profound effect on her.”

Craig Just has been leading the trips to Ghana. For each trip, the team goes for a period of five weeks, taking four to six students. “The first thing we do when we go to one of these villages is listen,” says Schnoor, who has conducted similar assessment trips in Mexico and Haiti. “Often the people there know exactly what they need,” says Craig Just. “They just don’t have the resources to make the necessary improvements.”

The group has been assessing the village’s needs, conducting health and resource surveys, and implementing technology and processes to improve living conditions.

“Right now there is so much need,” says Schnoor. “And we have so many students who are willing to go and help. More funding means more students can go, and more good can be done.”

Thanks in part to the generosity of these remarkable professors, UI students are solving real-world problems. “And that,” says Craig Just, “is what engineers do.”