March 26, 2013
Graduate students in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois gave back to the community and helped to make affordable housing happen for Champaign County residents.
Through the Champaign County Habitat for Humanity, the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Advisory Council organized two weekends for graduate students to help on the house in February and March.
Joe Whittenberg, a graduate student at Chemical Engineering in Professor and Department Head Paul Kenis’ lab, said being able to volunteer helps him to have a positive attitude and contribute to the local community. He said he enjoyed helping to cut baseboard and door trim and assist with door installation.
“Habitat for Humanity offered an excellent opportunity to provide a service to our local community by constructing affordable houses,” he said. “As engineers who build contraptions in the lab on a daily basis, this provided an ideal way to use our strengths to benefit Champaign County.”
Danielle Mai, a graduate student in Professor Charles Schroeder’s lab, said she helped install baseboards, door trims and interior doors when she volunteered. She says giving back helps to create “an atmosphere of service and generosity toward the community.”
Mai said when she visited Illinois in spring 2011, she saw the department’s positive atmosphere and that she could see “it was a place that fostered curiosity, creativity, and community.”
“Volunteering adds to the community atmosphere, and it also provides opportunities for graduate students to share our passion for science and engineering with others,” she said.
Besides volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the graduate council has organized a food drive where they collected more than 1,800 pounds of food, conducted a raffle for Toys for Tots to raise more than $350, and participated in science outreach events at Urbana Middle School and the St. Louis Science Center.
Whittenberg says he came to the University because of the research opportunities available to graduate students. He said being able to volunteer has enhanced his time at Illinois. “I’m advancing my educational experience and solidifying connections with fellow graduate students and forming new connections with community members,” he said.