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Humanitarian Engineering at Oregon State University: Engineering with context

About Us

Increasingly, we’ve found that the engineering students at Oregon State University are seeking ways to make a lasting impact on our world. In response to this demand, a diverse group of faculty from engineering, humanities, public health, forestry and has worked together to launch this humanitarian engineering program. A factsheet about the program can be found here

We define humanitarian engineering as the co-development of science or engineering-based solutions to improve the human condition, namely through improved access to basic human needs (e.g., clean water, clean energy), an improved quality of life, or improved level of community resilience (e.g. disaster mitigation, economic resilience).

While the greatest needs often lie in the developing world, we recognize that needs exist within our borders, too, so our program is consciously both global and local in orientation. The importance of co-developing solutions through active community engagement and sensitivity to context is critical in any setting.

Oregon State is well suited to harness education and empower students to participate in solving global development problems because of our tradition of interdisciplinary research and education, a campus ethos of engaged service, and faculty and student interest. Student organizations such as OSU’s award-winning Engineers Without Borders chapter  are already working on water, energy, or other projects in the developing world.  Please see the undergraduate minor or graduate programming page for more details on opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

Ours is not the first humanitarian engineering-related program in the country, but it stands out as one of a handful firmly rooted in an academic curriculum (as opposed to being primarily an extracurricular activity) and because of the dedicated involvement of faculty outside engineering. It has also been one of the only Humanitarian Engineering programs co-located with a Peace Corps Masters International (PCMI) program in engineering. The Peace Corps recently decided to discontinue the program entirely, so, like all other PCMI university partners, our Fall cohort of PCMI students will be the last. 

Our recent efforts to offer expanded educational and research opportunities for OSU students to engage meaningfully in service to the local and global community have struck a chord with both students and faculty. Oregon State faculty have been working at the cutting edge in international development or humanitarian engineering-related settings for many years, and now these efforts are becoming well-coordinated across campus.

See our undergraduate minor and graduate programming pages for up-to-date information on upcoming courses, and check our facebook page for announcements, interesting links or opportunities. We’re thrilled with the progress we’ve made establishing such a path-breaking climate for humanitarian engineering at Oregon State through engaged research and interdisciplinary curriculum development. We’ve come a long way — but have much left to do. So keep an eye on us, and please feel free to contact Prof. Kendra Sharp, Kendra.Sharp@oregonstate.edu, with any questions about our program.