Page 43 - Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Magazine
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 “He took me and a few
other students to a ‘Women
in Engineering Day’ at Westinghouse, where I was first exposed to the vast applications of engineering in our world,” said Abigail Cowser (‘20 CE).
The Bethel Park native—who spent significant portions of her childhood participating in church mission trips and service opportunities—saw herself reflected in these engineers.
“I looked up to these women and realized this was something that I was capable of,” Cowser said.
Cowser recently finished an impressive undergraduate career at Penn State with
a string of accolades. The American Society of Civil Engineers named her one of
the “2020 New Faces of Civil Engineering,” a designation reserved for ten collegiate “up-and-coming civil engineers” across the country.
She was also awarded one
of six 2020 John W. Oswald Awards, an honor given to graduating Penn State seniors who have provided outstanding leadership at the University.
“While Abby excelled academically, she also devoted a large amount of her energy applying her academic knowledge and leadership skills to help vulnerable and underserved populations,” said Brian Naberezny, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Penn State.
Cowser’s service-minded mentality was best demonstrated through her involvement with the Penn
State chapter of Engineers in Action: Bridge Program, an organization that designs and builds footbridges for isolated communities to better access essential resources. She quickly accepted responsibilities in the organization and was selected to travel to Rwanda in her first year.
“Traveling to Rwanda gave me the chance to live and work alongside rural communities for a month and opened my eyes to how infrastructure changes lives,” Cowser said. “Even though we were not speaking the same language, we proved that uniting over our mission
of improving access was more powerful than words.”
Cowser eventually assumed
the role of project manager in her junior year, responsible for overseeing the organization’s trip to Bolivia in 2019. That year, the team designed their bridge, raised funds, and eventually traveled to the country—and then learned that the community decided to go in another direction.
The team managed to salvage the trip, traveling to different sites and assisting other chapters’ projects. Cowser
left Bolivia with a new sense
of humility and a deeper understanding of what it means to provide service to others.
“It taught me a lot about putting the needs of the community before my own,” Cowser said.
After graduation, Cowser accepted a full-time position with HITT Contracting, a construction company that emphasizes social responsibility and community service. n
 Top: Cowser enjoyed a few great views during time with Engineers in Action: Bridge Program.
Bottom: Cowser was among this year’s participants in the Undergraduate Exhibition Her research poster documented a trip to Vietnam to test water in household bottling plants.

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