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Dayton Engineer

Mother Teresa's Influence Continues to Inspire University of Dayton Engineers

By Christine Vehar Jutte, Ph.D. '02

Author bio
 Northern Virginia
Profession: Contract engineer for NASA
Favorite UD home: 226 Kiefaber St.

My mother met Mother Teresa and often spoke of her. My brothers and I were reminded to never forget the less fortunate. During my time at the University of Dayton, I became unsettled and started to question if I was being called to serve as Mother Teresa did but with an engineering degree.  

In my junior year, I learned about Campus Ministry’s Cultural Immersion Trips and took my questioning to India. I expected to discover unutilized local resources that I could cleverly use to help empower India's poor. I expected to work with Mother Teresa's sisters and immediately feel the fulfillment I was missing. However, God had different lessons for me in Bangalore and Calcutta. 

I realized local culture, politics and economics had to be considered before developing sustainable technical solutions. After I spent a morning with an orphan named Thomas who was blind and mute, I felt challenged to make a better world for him. I learned humanity needs everyone’s full potential.

India humbled me, and wow, was that transformative. I returned to the U.S. enlightened and invigorated, wanting more engineering students to have the opportunity to feel this way. I shared my desire with Dr. Kevin Hallinan who encouraged me to use my upcoming senior capstone design course to address this void. It did not take long to find peers who had similar desires.

In the spring of 2001, engineering students led by Bob Hawley, Jason Huart, Garrett Prom and myself created Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service Learning. Since then, more than 500 ETHOS students have stepped off campus to immerse themselves in 20 different countries, working side by side with in-country organizations that address technical needs. The primary impact of ETHOS is not necessarily technical solutions but the effect on students. 

After India, I sought opportunities to become more influential. I became an intern in Washington, D.C. and learned how engineers affect the public policy process. I earned a master's and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. Since then, I became a wife and a mother and work part-time as a contract engineer for NASA, advancing research on environmentally-friendly aircraft.

I keep in touch with the ETHOS Center and love to talk with current students. Thanks to all UD taught me, I constantly re-evaluate the use of my time and talents and question if I am giving my full potential. It’s a healthy exercise I suppose, though I often remind myself how Mother Teresa emphasized the love we bring to our own family and local communities.  

I believe Mother Teresa would support ETHOS. I think she would agree it’s difficult to realize your vocation as an engineer if only provided a classroom setting. She would encourage students to humble themselves and realize where God is calling them. We all have so much to give our families, communities and the world! Go UD!

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