GM Foundation funding connects students with community needs

On September 25, General Motors executives Mark Maher and Charlie Baker, with seven GM colleagues, attended a celebration for Berkeley Engineering’s Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars (ES)2 at the Faculty Club. More than a dozen Engaged Scholars presented their posters to the GM representatives.

ES Squared Scholar Daryl Barth explains how to remove arsenic from drinking water. (Photo by Laura Vogt)“Effective collaborations between institutions like Berkeley and industry giants, like GM and its foundation arms, are central to prepare the next generation of engineering leaders,” says Oscar Dubón, Berkeley Engineering’s associate dean for equity and inclusion. “We team up with industry partners to make an impact in the real world and create a generation of socially conscious engineers.”

With support from the General Motors Foundation, the student leadership program Engineering Scholars as Engaged Scholars (ES)2 launched in fall 2013 with 30 freshman and new transfer students. ES Squared Scholars use their training in engineering to serve community needs by tackling technological and societal challenges. The program welcomed a second cohort of 34 students in fall 2014, thanks to another round of support from the GM Foundation.

Sophomore Daryl Barth, one of this year's ES Squared Scholars, is currently researching arsenic remediation in groundwater. At the celebration, she presented a research poster on tackling the problem of contaminated groundwater and educating people about arsenic and its deleterious effects. “I love engineering,” she says, “not only because it is so hands-on, but also so that I can use my skills to change people’s everyday lives.”

GM Foundation funding is also supporting a new undergraduate course, “Engineering, the Environment and Society.” Students from across campus as well as the fall 2014 (ES)2 cohort are enrolled. Students are able to engage communities in real engineering issues in water quality, air quality and other aspects of public well-being. Instructor Khalid Kadir says, “Certain people are stuck living on the margins. The forces that drove them to live on the margins are the places where we can apply engineering.”

“It is really exciting to come to Berkeley because people here are truly excited about diversity, inclusiveness and social justice, says Charlie Baker of GM. This culture aligns very well with GM’s commitment to these topics.”