Who would have thought that a simple “yes” reply to an email would kickstart a journey beyond the safe confines of corporate America? That’s exactly what happened when Arup, a global firm of consulting engineers, was approached by the EWB-USA University of Southern California Chapter to mentor the chapter’s project in Honduras. The journey that followed led to success in the community in Honduras, in Arup’s office in Los Angeles, and in the life of one EWB-USA student member in particular.
As a sophomore civil engineering student at the University of Southern California (USC), Mackenzie Allen helped design a rainwater catchment system for a schoolhouse roof in Honduras through EWB-USA. Although the student team had a willingness to learn and abundant enthusiasm, they did not have the intuition that only years of experience could bring. The chapter reached out to the Arup office in Los Angeles for professional mentorship and the wheels of change were set in motion.
Arup employee Paris Borovilos had no idea what to expect at their first meeting with the students, but he agreed to help mentor the chapter. “What we encountered was a fully oiled machine that already had the right parts in place,” said Paris. “The only thing they needed was the occasional tilt of the steering wheel to ensure they stayed on course with their eyes on the road ahead.”
The relationship between Arup and the chapter quickly transformed from simply providing professional mentorship to being part of something bigger. According to Paris, it was the students’ motivation to provide for communities around the world that helped expand his view of the impact of engineering projects. “Being an engineer is not just a profession that helps make your world better by designing impressive, large-scale projects,” said Paris. “A simple roof over a schoolhouse is equally impressive and can mean the world to someone else.”
As the students’ passion helped shape their mentors’ views of helping people, Arup’s company values also helped expand the students’ views of their careers. “I can confidently say that the Arup mentors out of the Los Angeles office truly changed the way I viewed engineering beyond college,” said Mackenzie. “Arup saw a need and engineers trying to meet that need, so they approached it ready to guide with usefulness, astuteness, and integrity.”
When she graduated from USC, Mackenzie knew she wanted to work at a company with values that supported both large-scale projects and small community-driven projects, like the one in Honduras. “They invested interest and time into our international projects, but also in us as students. Arup’s values made them the company I’d be proud to work for,” said Mackenzie.
Mackenzie is now a civil engineer in Arup’s LA office, where she works with Paris and the other mentors and supports their ongoing EWB-USA USC mentorship efforts.