Discovery Day Keynote Lecture Calls on Benedictine College Students to be Agents of Change

Discovery Day Keynote Lecture Calls on Students to be Agents of Change

Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2016

An emotional call to action was the point driven home in this year’s Discovery Keynote Lecture on April 13 on the Benedictine College campus in Atchison, Kan. The speaker was Dr. Bernard Amadei, founder of Engineers Without Borders-USA, and he addressed the crowd of students, faculty, staff, visitors and local community members during the college’s annual Discovery Day, when hundreds of Benedictine students present their extra-curricular research. This year projects ranged from an original ballet and children’s play to original choral and musical compositions, scientific research on esophageal cancer and engineering projects on robots and concrete canoes.

“There are projects spanning history, science, theology, music performance and more,” said Dr. Terrance Malloy, chair of the Biology Department and co-chair of the Discovery Program. “It’s a great demonstration of the kinds of activities and the kinds of interactions (between faculty and staff) that we’re proud of here at Benedictine.”

Each year, Benedictine cancels its classes to allow for student presentations and the special keynote address. This year’s event included more than 90 presentations featuring the works of over 240 students and 21 academic departments. Since its inception in 1996, Discovery Day has seen more than 2,500 students participate in research projects in collaboration with their professors. Amadei came to campus in conjunction with Benedictine College’s Century of Science celebration. The first Bachelor of Science Degrees were conferred in 1916 and the college has embarked on a capital campaign to expand and renovate Westerman Hall, the science building. Amadei’s address focused on sustainable human development and focused specifically on what engineers can do to combat the world’s problems.

“It’s not about giving a man a fish, or about teaching him to fish,” Amadei said. “It’s about creating a fishing industry!”

He said this is the kind of thing young people, and people all around the world, should think about when assessing the state of their fellow man. Global problems like poverty, lack of clean water, food shortages, climate change, lack of shelter, and conflict must be addressed by engineers who are thinking toward the future.

“We must disrupt poverty face-on,” he said. “Engineers are called to be change-makers, peace-makers, social entrepreneurs and facilitators of sustainable human development.”

He called everyone to action, telling them to think about what they will do with the gift of education they are receiving. He said the university was originally created as a spring-board for students to find their place in the universe. And he liked what he had seen at Benedictine College.

“You have chosen a good place here,” Amadei said. “Connect to that culture of service you get at Benedictine College.”

He said it would take love, passion, courage and compassion to fight the results of corruption and greed in the world.

“But each one of us can put a small drop into that bucket of change,” he concluded.

A native of Roubaix, France, Amadei, is a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado – Boulder. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a recipient of the Hoover Medal. In 2009, he was recognized with an Award of Excellence from Engineering News-Record and in 2012 he was appointed as a Science Envoy by the U.S. Department of State.

In 2000, Amadei took a group of eight engineering students to Belize to build a water pump for the village of San Pablo. The pump was powered by a local waterfall and provided clean water to the village. The simple, sustainable and low-cost solution was the first Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) project. Today, Engineers Without Borders-USA has more than 15,900 members and has impacted over 2.5 million lives around the world.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.