A Co-op Pivot Creates Opportunities for Peace

By Maggie McCurdy, BS Environmental Engineering, MS Peace Engineering

Engineering students on an assessment trip in San Luis de Yacupungo, Cotopaxi, Ecuador.
From left to right: Engineers Without Borders members Jillian Saunders, Maggie McCurdy, and Darien Schreffler on an assessment trip in San Luis de Yacupungo, Cotopaxi, Ecuador.

During my freshman year at Drexel, I made the decision to join Engineers Without Borders. I thought that it would suit my interests as an environmental engineering major and would be a great way to get involved and serve a deserving community. Through working on water supply projects in both Ecuador and El Salvador I learned how humanitarian engineering is a field that can connect technical engineering skills to peacebuilding principles. For that reason, I decided to apply to the BS/MS program. As I embarked on my master's in Peace Engineering, I immediately realized how lucky I was to be a part of such a progressive community.

As my second co-op approached, the COVID-19 pandemic began to accelerate and there was much uncertainty surrounding what the world would look like and what my future would entail as a co-op student. The plan was all set – I was to travel to Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece to work with Watershed Foundation whose mission is to provide shelter, water, and sanitation facilities to those living in the camp. Unrest on the island and travel restrictions due to COVID-19 meant I was no longer able to pursue this co-op. Discovering that I couldn’t go so close to co-op beginning, and with C-round already underway, I felt extremely untethered and stressed about the future. Fortunately, my wonderful professors, Dr. Hughes and Dr. Olson in the Peace Engineering Department, helped me connect with a great opportunity at the Peace Innovation Institute.

The project I am working on is called the PeaceX: Global Response. The goal is to connect people all over the world and help them determine how their field intersects with the principles of peace, reciprocity, and justice. This then allows us to create research teams that will engage volunteers and citizen scientists around the world to answer the question, how do we take care of each other? Through this network, we will be able to capture positive peace data that will help to understand what can be done as a global community to get through this difficult time.

Since signing on, many other students have joined as co-ops with the Peace Innovation Institute. Together, we have formed a team at Drexel that is looking to see how all of our diverse majors and disciplines intersect with peace. Through the mentorship of Dr. Hughes, we have all come together during a difficult time to build something that will hopefully be bigger than ourselves and help all the communities to which we belong.