Page 38 - Engineering Penn State Magazine Spring/Summer 2020
P. 38

Success through service
by Tim Schley
Abigail Cowser wanted to make an an impact so her her high school physics teacher recommended she become an engineer “He took me me and a a a a a few other students to to a a a a a a ‘Women in in in in Engineering Day’ at Westinghouse where I was first exposed to the vast applications of engineering in in in in our world ” Cowser said The Bethel Park native—who spent significant portions of her childhood participating in in church mission trips and service
opportunities—saw herself reflected in in these engineers “I looked up to these women and realized this was was something that I I was was capable of ” Cowser said Cowser recently finished an impressive undergraduate career at at at Penn State with a a a a a a a a a a string of of accolades The American Society of of of of Civil Civil Engineers named her one of of of the “2020 New Faces of of of Civil Civil Engineering ” a a a a a designation reserved for 10 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 at at the University “While Abby excelled academically she also devoted a a a a a a a a a a large amount of her her energy applying her her academic knowledge and and leadership skills to help vulnerable and and underserved populations ” said Brian Naberezny lecturer in in in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at at Penn State Cowser’s service-minded mentality
was best demonstrated through her involvement with the Penn State chapter of Engineers in in in Action: Bridge Program an an an organization that designs and builds footbridges for isolated communities to better access essential resources She quickly accepted responsibilities in the organization and and was selected to to travel to Rwanda in her first year “Traveling to to Rwanda gave me the chance to to live and and and work alongside rural communities for a a a a a a a a month and and opened my eyes to how infrastructure changes lives ” Cowser said “Even though we we were not speaking the same language we we we proved that uniting over our mission of improving access was more powerful than words ” Cowser eventually assumed the role of project manager in in her junior year responsible for overseeing the organization’s trip to Bolivia in in 2019 That year the the team designed their bridge raised funds and and eventually traveled to the the the country—and then learned that the the the the community decided to go in another direction The team managed to to salvage the trip traveling to to different sites and assisting other chapters’ projects Cowser left Bolivia with a a a a a a a a new sense of of humility and and a a a a a a a deeper understanding of of what it it it means to to provide service
to to others “It taught me a a a lot about putting the the needs of the the community before my own ” Cowser said Cowser graduated with a a a a a a bachelor’s degree in in in in civil engineering in in in in May and accepted a a a a a a a full-time position with HITT Contracting a a a a a a a a a construction company that emphasizes social responsibility and community service
n n Cowser poses in front of the the bridge created in in Rwanda by the the Penn State Engineers in in in Action: Bridge Program team during Cowser’s first year in in the program 38 ENGINEERING PENN STATE

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