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Greetings from Guatemala: a Student Project Brings Fresh Water to San Lucas Toliman—Read the Blog!

Posted March 17, 2009


A group of 12 students, led by Bruce Clemens, an assistant professor of management, and Steven Northrup, an associate professor of electrical engineering, spent two weeks in Guatemala, May 13-24, where they enhanced a town’s sustainability by improving its water distribution system. Throughout the trip, which was partially funded by a $2,500 grant from the Alumni Association grants program, the students shared their experiences on a class weblog that can be viewed by clicking here.

The students were enrolled in the course “Global Sustainability Management,” which was linked to a senior engineering project by Brittany Pickering, an industrial engineering major. This undertaking entailed completing a feasibility study to pipe water several miles to an elevation of 3,000 feet using renewable energy sources (wind, solar, and geo-thermal). On May 15 the students climbed nearly a mile-high volcano to survey the land for this study.

“We used a GPS to determine altitude, distance, and coordinates for the feasibility study,” blogged student Greg O’Brien, a business administration major who is on the five-year BBA/MBA program. “In the past, our hosts have used traditional surveying techniques, including tape measures and tripod- mounted transit. The work that would have formerly taken two weeks only took us four hours.”

Water supply is crucial for the survival of San Lucas Toliman, a town of 17,000. Thanks to the group’s efforts, fewer residents will need to embark on the hour-long march to reach the only other water source in the vicinity.

Clemens has over three decades of experience in this area: in 1972 he founded Agua del Pueblo, a nonprofit technical assistance organization that has provided more than 900 water systems to rural Guatemala.

This is his third trip to San Lucas Toliman with Western New England College students. He previously brought classes to Guatemala from James Madison University, where he used teach.

The students were involved in a variety of tasks, including digging ditches, installing pipeline, and working on such other infrastructure projects. The group, which previously met as a class six times in the spring semester course, also wrote term papers on the experience.

“My goal was to teach the students about management, culture, and engineering in a developing country, and to build a whole new generation of volunteers,” says Clemens. “That isn’t too difficult at Western New England College, because I find the students here very active in volunteerism.”

Many of the students earned credits for Learning Beyond the Classroom (LBC), a program that helps undergraduates link theoretical learning with real-world experiences.

Pictured below, the students were photographed after their campus send-off with (far right) School of Engineering Dean S. Hossein Cheraghi, School of Business Dean Julie Siciliano, and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Saeed Ghahramani. Bottom photo: the students pose with President Anthony S. Caprio after he wishes them a “buen viaje” to Guatemala.





Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University serves 3,955 students, including 2,575 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and School of Law.


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