CEAE Graduates Nikki van den Heever and Austin Riley were selected to receive the December 2018 College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Graduate awards. Van den Heever was selected as the December 2018 Outstanding Graduate of the College for her overall strength in academics, service and research while Riley was selected as the Outstanding Graduate for International Engagement. Both are graduating with Civil Engineering BS-MS degrees and will be recognized at the Engineering Graduation Ceremony.
Nikki has just completed her master’s degree in civil systems engineering with a certificate in engineering for developing communities here at CU. She is incredibly passionate about ensuring access (physically, politically and socially) to water and public health services within low-income areas. Nikki considers herself fortunate to have had several informative opportunities in this field including: conducting research at CU regarding how investment decisions can be better informed by data so as to ensure they adequately consider the triple bottom line; working at the World Bank as a climate change specialist for four projects ongoing in Northern Africa; working as the president of Engineers Without Borders at CU and the project manager of the Rwanda program; and working for a consulting firm that specializes in monitoring and evaluation of development projects in Kenya and Ethiopia. Nikki’s long-term career aspirations consist of working within the field of policy pertaining to international development work, after having garnered experience in the field. However, in order to ensure she has the educational background she needs for her future career, Nikki is planning to pursue a PhD in international development policy, starting in August of 2020. In the upcoming year, Nikki will be traveling from Chile to Canada in a Sprinter van, engaging with people and communities along the way, writing a book about international development work and revitalizing her Spanish speaking skills. Nikki is a Colorado native and in her free time she loves to hike, camp with her family and play the ukulele.
I am truly honored to have received this award. I would like to sincerely thank the people that supported me throughout my journey, whom without none of this would have been possible: professors, advisors, bosses, administrators, friends and family. I am so touched to know my work is viewed as valuable and impactful and I am thrilled to continue making progress within the field of international development work.
Austin is graduating from the BS/MS concurrent enrollment program in civil engineering as part of the environmental engineering for developing communities track.
Austin grew up in a family passionate about travel and culture. In fact, six countries were represented at their last Thanksgiving dinner between family and international students. Austin’s parents intentionally exposed their children to different cultures since they were young. Austin’s interest in international development was sparked when he travelled to Mexico and Central America many times with his family and church while he was growing up. It was only natural that Austin would form a passion for international engagement from a young age.
At CU, Austin was able to foster this passion starting in his freshman year, when he joined the Global Engineering Residential Academic Program, experiencing true community with other engineering students who desire a global perspective. He joined and quickly fell in love with Engineers Without Borders where he eventually led two trips to Peru and served as chapter president. Austin studied abroad in both Argentina and Spain, learning Spanish. Christian Challenge, a ministry on campus, provided foundational support for Austin throughout college and connected him to international students who became some of his closest friends. With Christian Challenge, Austin organized ethnic food nights, where international students would share their culture and cuisine with the community.
Austin hopes to use what he learned from his global education at CU to empower the vulnerable in developing communities.
Austin is incredibly grateful to his family, his professors, his campus ministry Christian Challenge, the Office of International Education, the Global Engineering RAP, and Engineers Without Borders for giving him a uniquely global college experience.
I am beyond humbled and thrilled to receive this award! It is incredibly encouraging to be recognized for my efforts to intentionally take advantage of CU’s rich global education programs and learn all I can to engage internationally. Thank you to those who nominated me and selected me—I am so encouraged!