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Dayton Engineer

ETHOS Experiential Learning Engages University of Dayton Ph.D. Student

By Megan Shepherd, graduate assistant, The ETHOS Center

Salahaldin Alshatshati graduated with his Ph.D. in 2017 and is currently enrolled in the University of Dayton's renewable and clean energy engineering master's degree program. In 2019, he spent two semesters participating in an ETHOS Dayton immersion, where he stepped away from traditional academic study and engaged in community projects with non-profit organizations. He worked with Mission of Mary Cooperative, a nonprofit that strives to improve the community life of the Twin Towers neighborhood in East Dayton by engaging in urban agriculture, urban land restoration and community education.  Mission of Mary’s focus has widened to include environmental sustainability, particularly through the use of renewable energy.  

Using his engineering knowledge, skills and mindset, Salah helped Mission of Mary reach its renewable energy and sustainability goals. He investigated and recorded energy consumption and solar generation data as part of an energy assessment to meet Mission of Mary’s goal of becoming a net-zero organization. Mission of Mary uses both geothermal and solar energy.

One of Salah’s many projects involved developing an educational kiosk that visualizes Mission of Mary’s energy usage for the purpose of educating the community about renewable energy, how individual behavior affects energy use and the importance of energy awareness.  “These projects created value for Mission of Mary Cooperative and the East Dayton neighborhood by educating community members about sustainability and renewable and clean energy systems,” says Salah.

Salah’s immersion was personally fulfilling as well. Originally from Libya, Salah moved to the U.S. in 2008. “I made new friends, and they taught me about U.S. culture. They have welcomed me with inclusivity, and I now have a deeper understanding of the Marianist tradition of ‘building community’ and the importance of intentional presence,” he says. This was a life-changing experience that he credits with helping him engage with the community and develop personally and as a leader. 

“In addition to his vast technical knowledge and experience, Salah brings a joy and passion to his work at Mission of Mary. Salah's ability to teach and explain concepts in a new, more research-based way, has allowed our organization to think differently and set new goals for being leaders in sustainability and laying out research and publications about how we have achieved our goals,” says Stephen Mackell, farm manager at Mission of Mary.

University of Dayton students who participate in an ETHOS immersion note that before their immersion they have little contact or experience in the actual city of Dayton. Salah had the same experience. “Through my experience at Mission of Mary, I truly received a genuine immersion in the City of Dayton, which has helped my family enjoy the city experience even more,” he says. 

“In addition, I learned how to grow my own food, started a garden in my backyard and practiced the sustainable growing principles that I learned through this awesome experience, which helped me learn more about living a sustainable lifestyle,” he says.

Overall, Salah’s ETHOS Dayton experience was a true partnership. “Mission of Mary Cooperative and ETHOS Dayton helped form me into an engineer for the common good. I was able to develop skills through the high-impact, experiential learning opportunities offered to me by Mission of Mary. I also felt I was able to make a difference in the community by using the knowledge and resources from UD to broaden the impact Mission of Mary has on the community it serves in East Dayton,” states Salah. 

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