Paving the Way for the Next Generation: A Conversation with an EWB-USA Mentor

EWB-USA’s passionate volunteers are the heartbeat of the organization. Our volunteers donate their time, energy and expertise in pursuit of EWB-USA’s vision of a world where every community has the capacity to sustainably meet their basic human needs. The volunteers that serve as student chapter mentors have the unique opportunity to guide the next generation of engineers and make a lasting impression in the lives of others. We spoke with Rodney Holbert, a dedicated mentor for the EWB-USA West Virginia University Chapter and president of the EWB-USA Mid-Ohio Professional Chapter, for insight into what it means to be an outstanding chapter mentor.

Rodney Holbert’s journey as a chapter mentor began with a phone call. On a water treatment trip to Nicaragua, he had met a student from West Virginia University. After returning home the student contacted him, asking him to join their EWB-USA chapter as a mentor.

“I became a mentor because students reached out to me,” he recalls. “Those students calling and asking me, ‘will you help us?’ That’s what did it.”

This initial contact marked his first of many inspirational moments as an EWB-USA mentor.  During a sanitation trip to the Dominican Republic, Rodney witnessed the true potential of his chapter members.

“They were so professional. They were organized, compiling information at the end of each day.”

It was on this trip that Rodney had a revelation.

“This is exactly what I want out of EWB-USA. Helping students, brainstorming with them, serving as a facilitator. They’re smart! We just need to use their strengths.”

The Next Generation

One of the most rewarding aspects of mentorship is watching the transformation of student chapter members while fostering connections that last far beyond graduation.

Rodney has witnessed this firsthand, recalling with pride one of the students from his first EWB-USA trip who is now a “top-notch mechanical engineer working on wind energy, doing fantastic work while helping others.”

By encouraging students to continue to think globally in their work, EWB-USA can have a lasting impact on the professional careers of student members.

The Qualities in a Quality Mentor

So what makes a mentor truly memorable? While the foundation of mentorship requires expertise in a project’s specific field, a great mentor brings more than just classroom skills to the table.

“Our job is not to lead the group but to come alongside them. A mentor needs to derive satisfaction from seeing the success of others. It’s almost like being a coach. The team is out there, they’re doing it. The mentor is giving them direction, not taking charge of the project. This is the students’ project, not mine.”

Ultimately, mentorship is about connection: connecting with students, connecting with local communities and connecting with the general public. By showcasing the work of his students, Rodney has been able to highlight the mission and impact of EWB-USA around the world.

“Mentors should realize the importance of telling a chapter’s story to others and inspiring communities to get involved in the important work being done.”

Get involved!

Interested in taking the next step to become an EWB-USA chapter mentor? Become a member, then join our online volunteer community to let us know you’re interested in mentoring a student chapter. Check out these mentor resources to learn more!


About the Author
Engineers Without Borders USA builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.