Published: May 5, 2021

Abbie Weeks
Abbie Weeks

Environmental Engineering senior Abbie Weeks has earned the 2021 Silver Medal Award from the College of Engineering and Applied Science. The honor recognizes graduating seniors who embody the values of academic excellence, personal integrity, professionalism and community service. Congratulations Abbie!

Below she talks about her work, time at CU Boulder, and shares advice for incoming students:

What is your favorite memory from your time at CU Boulder?

My first job at CU Boulder was with the Environmental Center’s “EcoVisits” program installing free energy and water saving measures for off-campus students. A coworker and I would traverse around Boulder by bus meeting students in their homes and engaging in dialogue about sustainability. It was a unique way to get to know our student population and combined sustainability with social justice while drawing from engineering principles in heating and cooling, lighting, and water use.

Since then, and committed to the work of the ECenter, I ran and was elected to the chair of the CU Student Government Environmental Board and now oversee the budget and activities of the largest student-run environmental center in the Nation.

I am proud of our student leadership and programs such as the Bike and Bus program which provides affordable, accessible, and green transit, Sustainable CU, which awards grants to CU community members for green projects (recent awardees include programs to reduce student food insecurity), and our FLOWS program with the city of Boulder to to increase community member's leadership capacity, and lower residents' energy and water bills and environmental impacts.

As an engineering student, I felt empowered while on groups such the Energy Master Plan committee, to represent student interests and advocate for more ambitious carbon reduction strategies in our building operations. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of, either academically or personally? 

I am proud of the Environmental Engineering Undergraduate Program this school year to critically consider the role of engineers in addressing systematic inequalities in the United States. Beyond self education I strongly believe in institutional reform.

Our education at CU Boulder has an obligation to address and deinstitutionalize systemic injustices so relevant to our chosen fields. Education and professional training from the Engineering College must include the political and social contexts in which our engineering field is set to cultivate a generation of informed and socially minded engineers by codifying this into our curriculum, for instance.

Within my degree program (Environmental Engineering) I organized the Environmental Justice Seminar Series with peers, Dr. Jana Milford, and support from the department, in collaboration with the Environmental Engineering Program, the BOLD Center and CU Boulder’s chapters of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers.

The series serves as a starting point for our communities to consider our roles and engage in dialogue about the intersection of social justice and engineering. I am so humbled by the speakers who took the time to speak with us about their work and research from drinking water infrastructure inequities to environmental justice issues in Northeast Denver. 

Abbie Weeks

Weeks and her cargo van.

Tell us about a moment when you felt like you hit your stride or felt like you were “officially” an engineer.

I live in an old Ford E-250 cargo van and converting it this summer, including doing all of my own electrical wiring and solar panel installation, was a useful application of engineering skills!  

What was the biggest challenge for you during your engineering education? What did you learn from it?

Finding and building community is one of the most basic human needs. As a woman in engineering these communities especially within the class and lab setting were difficult for me to establish at first.

However, I am grateful to the Engineers Without Borders community (especially my time with the Nepal team) and the incredible and intelligent women peers and professors in the Environmental Engineering department for the support network over the past four years.

Having role models for critical thinking and compassion have helped me find avenues to manifest my engineering education into beneficial projects. 

What is your biggest piece of advice for incoming engineering students?  

Run the Boulder trails, the compost bins in the engineering center are in the bathrooms, and office hours can make the most egregious assignments manageable. Gravity Cafe has yummy coffee, support each other and do all things in service to others, your education comes with a responsibility to critically engage with societal issues and challenge unfair systems, go to seminars, take a dance class.