From EAST to Gates Cambridge Scholar


From EAST to Gates Cambridge Scholar
4/22/2016 10:27:26 AM

University of Arkansas senior and Greenland High School graduate Ryan DuChanois, who will graduate next month with a degree in civil engineering, is headed to Cambridge University in England next fall to continue his studies, fully funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust. And he credits EAST for starting him on his path.

An EAST student for five years, DuChanois frequently went to student technical trainings offered through EAST by the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) at the University of Arkansas. Using that knowledge, he spent the summer before his senior year in high school working on a stormwater drainage mapping project that was funded by a grant from the EAST Initiative.


“We went hiking through Greenland with our GPS units in hand mapping out inlets, outlets, culverts and all the drainage utilities in the city, and then we’d go back into our EAST classroom and put that on a map using ArcMap,” he said. “The purpose of it is to see where water flows, so if a pollutant were to enter into the water system, then you’d be able to trace it. The map was required for a permit called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.”


The project led to a conversation the following school year with CAST’s Robyn Lane.


“I was telling her about my interests and that I really enjoyed the stormwater drainage mapping project through EAST, and she said, ‘I think you might be interested in civil engineering.’ From that conversation, I chose to major in civil engineering, so EAST is very much where it all started.”


Having a dad who works in construction also contributed to DuChanois’ studies. Though not an engineer, “he has an engineer’s mentality in some respects,” and seeing his dad always involved in bidding and building sparked a fascination with infrastructure.


At UA, DuChanois has nurtured an interest in environmental engineering, specifically sustainable urban water infrastructure. And he’s excelled -- so much so he applied for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, funded by a donation from Bill and Melinda Gates. The application process is highly competitive, requiring not only admission to Cambridge, acceptance by the department and then making a short list of scholarship candidates, but also an in-person interview in Seattle.


“When I found out I was invited for an interview, I was thinking I never expected to get this far in the first place. They invited 90 to interview and gave 35 scholarships,” he said. But those 90, he noted, were the best and brightest of the entire applicant pool.


Nevertheless, four days later, an early morning email offered some very exciting news.


“It was just complete shock. I knew I did well in my interview, well enough to give myself a chance. But never in a million years did I originally expect to get an interview, much less actually receive the scholarship. I just started laughing, honestly, laughing with joy and immediately called my parents and told them. The first thing I said was, ‘I’m going to Cambridge next year.’”


In England, DuChanois will complete a master’s of philosophy in engineering for sustainable development.


“It’s a bit different than a master’s of science. You don’t find programs like this here in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s one year, and it’s less technical coursework and more economic, policy, business management and even social type of coursework. So, it’s looking at how engineering accommodates for sustainable design. There’s so much more that goes on in engineering than just technical design, and, honestly, engineers don’t address that enough. So, I’ll be looking at that, particularly for water.”


When he returns, options will be wide open. DuChanois is also the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, meaning he’ll have three years of funding to earn another postgraduate degree from any school in the U.S. to which he can secure admission.


With all that opportunity, he’s grateful for the start EAST gave him.


“I’ve gone back to my high school specifically to see and thank my EAST instructor , because the course has been so influential on my college career, coming here to the University and beyond that going to Cambridge. The EAST program has been very influential in my life,” he said.


“I realized, as my friend said about EAST in high school, you’re only limited by the boundaries of your ambition, so I put a lot of work into it. I enjoyed it, and I saw the purpose behind it all and knew it was making a difference. It’s easy to work hard for something that you know is making a difference.”


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