Crystal Markley, a Jacksonville District engineer, doesn't vacation in Paris or Tahiti but uses her annual leave volunteering with Engineers without Borders (EWS-USA) to help communities in rural areas access potable water.
Markley, who received a degree in agricultural and biological engineering from the Pennsylvania State University, joined Jacksonville District in July 2010. She worked with EWB-USA to improve access to clean water and sanitation in the Nahuaterique region of Honduras.
To expand her knowledge in this area, enrolled in a one week accelerated course. The course was offered by EWB-USA, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the University of Colorado, Boulder in conjunction with ASCE/EWB-USA’s Global Engineering Conference 2014 in Panama City, Panama. The week-long course taught members about community and partner selection, cultural awareness, and the steps involved in taking a small-scale project from initial concept to long-term sustainability.
“The course was about engineering sustainable projects in developing countries,” said Markley. “Topics covered included community and partner selection, cultural awareness, and tools to assist in developing a project from concept to long term sustainability,” she continued. “The first three days of the course involved classroom instruction, and the final day included a field experience in community assessment in a local Panamanian community.”
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to tour the canal,” said Markley. “There was a construction tour of the Panama Canal expansion project that was a highlight for me. The Panama Canal is a Civil Engineering Landmark, celebrating 100 years in 2014, and considering the effect the expansion of the canal will have on the port and other infrastructure here in Jacksonville, I had to see it.”
Several Corps speakers attended the conference including Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who was the keynote speaker of the Industry Leaders Forum.
“Lt Gen. Bostick talked about the Corps’ involvement in the construction of the Panama Canal, and lessons in leadership from the French's attempt to build the canal,” said Markley, “as-well-as how decision-making and asset management are used to drive change.”
It was there Markley met Bostick. “I had the opportunity to meet the General the night before he spoke at the conference and then again right after his presentation.”
“I also had a chance to speak briefly with Brig. Gen. Turner, whom I had recently met when he attended our Leadership Development Program graduation ceremony in September,” said Markley.
“My desire to attend the Global Engineering course was to expand my skill set related to sustainable engineering solutions in developing countries,” This skill set will enhance both my volunteer work and my professional work,” Markley said. “It will not only assist me with my clean water project in Honduras with EWB-USA, but also with my work on the Haiti Feeder Rural Roads project that the district is working on for the United States Agency for International Development.”
Markley said the highlight of her trip Markley was having the opportunity to meet, talk with and be photographed with Bostick.
“Meeting Lt Gen. Bostick and having a chance to speak with him about why training in development engineering and sustainable engineering solutions is beneficial to me and others in the Corps of Engineers was definitely the biggest highlight.”