News & Features

Projects for Underserved Communities

Ghana team in bluebonnets

PUC's Team Ghana spent over nine months planning and implementing a project to improve a community in need. Two CAEE students were members of the team along with students from other engineering disciplines and the social work program.

The Projects for Underserved Communities (PUC) program, offered by the Cockrell School of Engineering, combines the need to train future global engineering and social work leaders with the mission of the University of Texas at Austin of “What Starts Here Changes the World.”

PUC is an innovative multidisciplinary curriculum, designed to teach project management skills and develop the cross-cultural communication competencies that are essential to working in a global environment. Engineering and social work professionals have complementary skill sets that lend themselves well to working on sustainable development projects together.

In consultation with faculty mentors and through formal instruction, students work on project development and design with partners in marginalized communities around the world. Instructors from CAEE include James O'Connor, construction engineering and project management professor, and John Burgin, environmental and water resources engineering lecturer.

During the summer, students travel to the approved project sites to implement their projects and see the direct impact their project-based academic work will have on the lives of others. Students have worked on projects in locations such as Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Mongolia, Guatemala and Mozambique.

This year Team Ghana recently completed work in the Kenyasi community in the southwest region of Ghana. After researching several possible projects and discussing the impact that each would have on different Ghanaian communities, the team decided to take on a sanitation project.

Since there is a major concern of poor sanitation in this region, the team constructed two public latrines in locations of greatest need. They also got involved in the community through health and sanitation education.

CAEE Students Nick Kratkiewicz (Civil Engineering) and Krista Seaman (Architectural Engineering) were team members of this project

Read the team's blog.