Barbi Wheelden: Going global

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Barbi Wheelden, Missouri S&T alumna. Photo by B.A. Rupert

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Barbi and the Missouri S&T Engineers Without Borders team construct a water-holding tank in Bolivia. Photo submitted

In the classroom, Missouri S&T students learn the basic skills that form the foundation of their degrees. It’s the hands-on learning — often outside the classroom — that sets S&T students apart from their peers. Organizations like Engineers Without Borders (EWB) give students a chance to learn real-world skills while improving conditions in developing countries.
For Barbi Wheelden, the experience has been life changing.


Wheelden, a 2010 chemical engineering graduate, joined Engineers Without Borders as an undergraduate student, not only for the engineering experience — it does look good on a resume — but also to help improve lives.
“Engineers Without Borders has taught me things that I could never learn in class,” Wheelden says. “I have learned how to interact and communicate with people from different backgrounds than my own; I’ve learned to plan, to organize, to lead, and to think on my feet.”

EWB does more for students than build engineering skills. It develops life skills and builds confidence.

“When I joined EWB, at first I felt scared,” Wheelden says. “I felt that I did not have the ability, the knowledge, the skills, to work on projects that were so important to so many people, and so complex to prepare for and implement. When I got to Santiago, Honduras, however, I felt empowered, uplifted, and incredibly satisfied to be doing something so fulfilling.”
Wheelden spoke of her experiences with EWB during the Advancing Excellence Campaign Conclusion Ceremony in April.
“Through my involvement with Engineers Without Borders, I have been given the opportunity to learn about different cultures, develop a broader view of the world and travel outside of the country,” Wheelden said.

Wheelden says she’s made new friends — both at Missouri S&T and abroad — and helped save lives by bringing more water and cleaner water to poor communities.

“Perhaps the most rewarding of all is knowing that I am capable of making a difference,” Wheelden said. “We all are.”
Wheelden credits the generosity of campaign donors for the opportunities she and the other 150 EWB members on campus have had to help so many people.

“I’ve discovered through working with some of the poorest people on our planet that the more resources they have, the more they are able to do for themselves,” Wheelden told the audience. She sees a correlation at Missouri S&T. The more resources available, she said, the more we are able to benefit — as students, through scholarship support and program opportunities; as faculty, through program support and research funding; and as a campus, through new buildings, state-of-the-art laboratories and computer labs.

“Your support has made a big difference in my life — and helped me to make a tremendous impact on the lives of others,” Wheelden told the assembled donors. By exposing students to the larger world around them, donor support of Missouri S&T has made a difference on a much larger scale.

“You have helped prepare all of us to be global citizens, to take our place as leaders in a global, interconnected economy, and to recognize that without the support of others, we could not have the impact on the world that we have already made, and will continue to make throughout our lives.”

By Mary Helen Stoltz
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This story was originally published in Missouri S&T Magazine.
Read additional stories from the Fall 2010 issue.

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