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Dayton Engineer

University of Dayton School of Engineering Mission of Mary

School of Engineering Ethos Center expands work to deepen engagement in Dayton community

By Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications

New leadership in the University of Dayton School of Engineering Ethos Center is deepening engagement in the Dayton community. This summer, about 15 UD students will work with 10 area organizations to connect their engineering skills with each organizations' needs and aspirations.

"Local community organizations, which are focused on human wellbeing, equity and sustainability, sometimes have technical needs and aspirations, or design challenges, they often don't have the time or resources to pursue. Our students bring an engineering mindset and skill set to collaboratively address these challenges and potentially design solutions," said Kelly Bohrer, first-year executive director of the Ethos Center and director of community relations in the School of Engineering.

Lauren Doorley, a sophomore who graduated from Archbishop Alter High School in the Dayton suburb of Kettering, Ohio, is working with Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley to develop processes for analyzing Dayton neighborhoods to determine the best fit for refugees coming to the area. She will interview citizens to hear what attracted them to their neighborhoods and why their neighborhoods could be good for refugee resettlement.

"Moving from one country to another is stressful for refugees, and Catholic Social Services is interested in improving processes to make resettlement easier," Doorley said. "By learning as much as we can about Dayton communities, we can help refugees acclimate better and find a place where they can thrive."

Catherine Kinman, a graduate student from Hagerstown, Maryland, is working with Mission of Mary Cooperative to improve the processes for harvesting and packing. She also will have an opportunity to help the network of six urban farms, which provide more than 60,000 pounds of food each year in what was once a food desert, improve soil health and automate their watering system.

"People don't necessarily have access to go to a grocery store or, if they do, the grocery store does not have nutritious or affordable produce. So what Mission of Mary does is grow nutritious organic food for the community at a reasonable cost or donate it," Kinman said. "It's a way to build up communities in Dayton."

FiveRivers MetroParks, We Care Arts, United Rehabilitation Services, Co-Op Dayton and Homefull urban farming also are among the nonprofits students are working with this summer. Their work will range from developing rainwater catchment systems to designing assistive devices to project management for solar energy systems.

The center's work also has expanded to CityWide Development Corp., the Miami Conservancy District, Hall Hunger Initiative, Dayton Regional Green, the Dayton Early College Academy and the West Dayton Makerspace, among others.  

"Former dean Eddy Rojas stressed, and now our Interim Dean Margie Pinnell stresses, the importance of engineering for the common good and having a positive societal impact where you live," Bohrer said. "Our Fitz Center for Leadership in Community has done similar work in the community for years with students in other disciplines, so we are excited to also engage our engineering students in meaningful ways for them and for our local community."

For 20 years, students participating in immersions have traveled to more than 15 countries to work with approximately 25 organizations. Students help the organizations collaboratively work in their local communities on projects that include replacing indoor wood stoves with cleaner, more efficient cookstoves; bringing solar energy solutions to areas with limited energy access, and expanding access to clean water where there was little. 

"Our work traveling to remote locations on the other side of the world is great. But our students can engage with communities and cultures locally that also are very likely going to stretch them outside of their comfort zone," said Scott Schneider, Ethos Center professor for leadership in community.

Click here to read more about the Ethos Center's work in the Dayton community.

Much of the center's work is supported by grants and donations. The Marianist Foundation Board and One Day, One Dayton Giving Day gifts in 2021 and 2022 have supported programming. A donor-supported endowment funds one student's immersion experience each year. Donations to the Ethos Center can be made here. 

"We are extremely thankful for the philanthropic support we receive that benefits hands-on, living and learning experiences for our students that also show them how their skills can positively impact Dayton organizations," Bohrer said. "We don't want our students to see this as 'service' here and 'engineering' there. They can do this together, and do it for the common good."

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