Entrance Torch

Lead and Serve: Valpo Students Thrive in Support of Global Community

Drink. Bathe. Clean. Cook. These may be things you do daily, but for nearly one billion people across the world who lack access to clean water, these are luxuries. Through a partnership between the Institute for Leadership and Service and Water to Thrive, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring clean, safe water to those in need throughout rural Africa, Valpo students are serving the global community.

With students dedicating more than 247,000 hours to community outreach and service-learning annually, service is a way of life at Valpo. For Krista Stribling ’18, it was a major component in her decision to attend Valparaiso University and it has defined her college experience.

“Krista Stribling is a shining example of the type of student Valpo attracts,” says Daniel Blood, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “She is hard working, dedicated, motivated, and her compassion for those that are less fortunate is clearly visible.”

From Greenfield, Wis., Krista is a civil engineering major and mechanical engineering minor. Fully immersed in campus life, Krista serves as president of Working Across Vocations Everywhere through Service (WAVES), formerly Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a service-based organization working to meet basic human needs and improve quality of life through the development and implementation of sustainable projects. She is also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), plays club tennis and intramural sports, and volunteers as an usher in the Chapel.

“I chose to attend Valparaiso University due to its service orientation and unique engineering program, with small class sizes and professors who get to know you personally,” Krista says. “I knew Valpo would help me find a way to serve people through engineering.”

As a member of EWB, Krista traveled to Haiti twice, working on a long-term project to bring renewable energy to an orphanage, home to more than 400 children and an educational site for approximately 1,500 students from across the community. Bringing a reliable source of power to these children will support their educational endeavors and lead to new opportunities.

Most recently, Krista explored her “immense passion” for the global water crisis through an internship with Water to Thrive as part of the CAPS Fellows Program. Established in 2014 by the Institute for Leadership and Service, the CAPS Fellows Program helps students to discern their sense of calling and purpose in society through professionally relevant, socially engaging fellowships that are rooted in reflection. As the program continues to develop, it seeks to expand across a variety of disciplines. By partnering with Water to Thrive, the Institute for Leadership and Service created the first engineering placement.

“My time with Water to Thrive was incredibly fulfilling and yet the most challenging experience of my life,” Krista says. “I was able to apply the technical skills I’d obtained in the classroom to real-world projects, instilling in me a new confidence that I can make a difference.”

Krista interviewed for placement with Water to Thrive, a domestic funding organization that works in conjunction with in-country technical partners on the construction of water wells in rural Africa, at their base in Austin, Texas. Drawing upon her technical engineering knowledge, Krista researched the best practices to be used by the in-country organizations in the construction and implementation of the water projects, with particular attention on borehole well construction.

With the financial support of the Dean’s Fund for the College of Engineering, Krista visited nearly 40 construction sites in Ethiopia and Uganda during a three-week period. While onsite, Krista met with in-country partners and discussed best practices to ensure quality, enduring wells are produced. She also met with the communities Water to Thrive serves, observing sites in all phases of construction.

“You really see the difference being made — making their lives healthier,” Krista says. “It was reassuring to see how what I’ve learned at Valpo translates. What I excel at can be used to serve the global community.”

In a “heartbreaking” moment, one woman took Krista to a small pond that used to function as the community’s only water source. To Krista, she simply saw mud. The woman described how she would skim the top, poor it into a can, and sift it though a cloth to rid the water of worms.

“A perfect example of CAPS at work, Krista’s experience expanded her future horizon and sense of purpose,” says Elizabeth Lynn, director of the Institute for Leadership and Service. “Connecting one of Valpo’s most gifted students to an organization doing important service in response to fundamental challenges helps Valpo do what it does best in the world — graduate persons of knowledge, integrity, and wisdom who are oriented and prepared to lead and serve.”

In spring 2016, Water to Thrive extended its partnership with the University when it sought Valpo’s assistance with the development of a new website. Members of the Valparaiso University Computer and Information Science Women’s Association, a group designed to support women in technology, tackled the project. Students from across the University, ranging from undergraduate freshmen to graduate students, worked closely to meet the needs of this humanitarian organization.

Working alongside Shiv Yadav ’12 M.S., adjunct instructor in computing and information sciences, Chloe Witter ’17, a master of science in information technology (MSIT) student from Munster, Ind., assumed the role of project manager. In this position, she managed her own team members, the schedule, and the progress of the project, with particular focus placed on meeting client requests.

Under Professor Yadav’s mentorship, Chloe and her team successfully utilized WordPress, a content management system, to create a modernized, user and mobile-friendly site. The students’ work will support Water to Thrive’s marketing and fundraising initiatives for years to come.

“The work Water to Thrive is engaged in is incredibly inspiring, and I’m proud to be of assistance to such an important cause,” Chloe says. “I will be very pleased if my work will help raise additional support for their mission.”

Krista and Chloe, like so many Valpo students, combined the skills they had developed in the classroom with a passion for service, changing lives across the world. Their experiences will undoubtedly assist them both as they continue to uncover their own paths.