Kianna Marquez: A tribute to the engineer

Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 5:25pm

Despite the havoc that continues to be wreaked on our natural world, there is no doubt that we are making substantial strides to improve the quality of our environment. At this point, one of the most prominent issues is how we can implement green practices into our daily lives — a problem I would turn to engineers to solve.

In this mercenary society, it’s not good enough to be green. It’s not enough to say that the problems we see with the fluctuations of our environment will be fixed as long as we employ methods that limit the consequences, which have essentially consisted of using renewable energy, reducing waste and rationing our goods and materials. We have to think about how we can sustain a lifestyle that reduces these negative effects that we impose on the environment. In other words, we know our innovations and efforts are driven to serve an urgent purpose in our society, but we have to make sure they are feasible in the sense they can be continually implemented in concurrence with our economic and social values.

In terms of the people we should look toward for progressing — and, ultimately, accomplishing— this goal, I would wholeheartedly put my trust in the hands of engineers. As an aspiring engineer whose intellectual abilities and character have been enriched by the University of Michigan Engineering community, I am proud to say we are becoming more than what misconceptions and stereotypes assume about our characters and our priorities. This University’s efforts to make our roles in our communities more meaningful has transformed the idea of what it means to be an engineer. As a witness of these milestones, I am confident this movement promoted in many institutions will translate to the rebirth of a society that will unequivocally consider all of its sectors, including the environment, in terms of how it functions and how it progresses.

The curriculum for engineers at this University is not only preparing us to be intellectually capable of working on our society’s infrastructure, communication and transportation issues, but is also prioritizing our knowledge of how to be cohesive members of the workforce in the process. Even as a freshman who has only been studying at the University for two semesters, I have taken classes embedded with the importance of how what we learn applies to the real world. We have wasted no time taking prerequisites, first-year writing requirements, or other classes that may or may not relate to our majors. We will all have taken the engineering core classes, which I view not as a pesky requirement but as an essential foundation for the information we will need to apply to our work once we are pursuing our specialized majors. All the while, we are taught to understand how the various disciplines within engineering — as well as other sectors, such as business or public health — are affected as a result of implementing specific concepts we have learned. In addition to acquiring essential knowledge, the curriculum demands I am aware of the effects of the decisions I make, a gesture that is preparing me to make decisions in life that will satisfy the goals I have while not preventing others from achieving their agendas.

In addition to intellectual breadth, the University is also continuing to promote social versatility, psychological flourishing and a sense of community among its engineering students. In an article written by Kate McAlpine for The Michigan Engineering News Center, she highlights the plans Anthony Waas, department chair of Aerospace Engineering, has to raise awareness for the entire University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion campaign:

“While we try to invite a diverse range of speakers to give lectures on aerospace topics, we haven’t brought in speakers who can speak of their research on diversity. To address this, our department will invite speakers to give public seminars about the changing landscape in society and how we can mirror it in our department.”

In essence, Waas’ efforts to diversify the ideas heard by aerospace engineering students will enable these students to recognize the validity of leaders in the field who come from different backgrounds. The campaign will also help students develop communication skills in which they will be able to simultaneously convey and respect ideas with one another. This is only one of the ways that the University is expanding the realm of collaboration for engineers in all of its disciplines. Furthermore, while often forgotten, the strides made in the field of engineering today demonstrate themselves as an inclusive effort by nature.

I believe this inclusive state of mind can apply directly to the strife we face in improving the quality of our environment. The heart of this mentality is that we are psychologically aware and capable of making decisions with consideration of how they will affect others. Thus, we will have to compromise what’s best for the environment and best for the economy and best for society as we seek to find balance between all. At the root of change in any aspect of our lives is social change, a type of change that encompasses a massive pyschological adjustment by everyone in a society. With monumental change comes massive responsibility and massive effort, and I believe it is the grit, resilience and persistence engineers harness that will allow us to create the scale of change required to achieve a sustainable balance between all sectors of our society.

Kianna Marquez can be reached at kmarquez@umich.edu.