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Andrew Schrader was in seventh grade when he decided to pursue a career in humanitarian engineering.

“I went on a mission trip to Mexico to help build homes,” he said. “I knew it was the kind of work I wanted to continue.”

So when he was deciding where to attend college, he knew he wanted to go somewhere where he could be involved with Engineers Without Borders — a program that connects people who have technical and engineering skills to developing communities around the world.

Schrader was impressed, he said, with the fact that Valparaiso University had one of the oldest local chapters in the country.  “It showed me that they were really committed to this kind of work,” he said.

But he never imagined how many opportunities he would have to make a global impact in just four years as a Valpo student.

A recipient of a full-ride Founders Scholarship and a member of Valpo’s Christ College — the Honors College, Schrader joined Engineers Without Borders as a freshman, and by his sophomore year he was in Tanzania with a team of other students helping to repair a damaged canal system.

“Without this water source,” Schrader said, “the village would probably not exist.”

Two years later, Schrader was elected to serve as the team’s technical chair, and now he is helping plan a new trip for the summer of 2014 — this time to the village of La Palma, Nicaragua.

“They have a water distribution system that comes down off of a volcano, and it’s starting to fall apart. Pipes are breaking, and valves are bursting.” The team is investigating ways to combat the problem.

Schrader has also had an opportunity to work closely with professors and fellow students in Valpo’s new James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility. In fact, Schrader was even able to help write the proposal that landed the research facility a $2.3 million grant from the United States Department of Energy.

The opportunities he’s been given to explore the world and make a difference have helped Schrader realize his dream to pursue a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on thermal sciences.

“What I have enjoyed most is working one-on-one with my professors outside of a classroom setting and being able to interact and work with other students who have similar passions,” Schrader shared. “I couldn’t have dreamed that I would gain such experience at an undergraduate level.”