Monday, August 15, 2011

Helping Ghana: Engineering Student is First UC San Diego Undergraduate to Receive UC Human Rights Fellowship

What better way to turn 21 than on a flight to Ghana? Kelsey Ellis will fly off to the African country on Aug. 30 to complete a two-week UC Human Rights Fellowship. Many graduate students here at UC San Diego have received the award in past years, but she is the first undergraduate student to be recognized. She plans to conduct a survey of water and technology needs in the community of Akawatia.

Ellis, a structural engineering student, is a member of Global Ties at the Jacobs School of Engineering and she and fellow students already are working with the nonprofit organization Ghana Africa International Operations to design a solar-powered water pump in that community.

GAIO’s founder, Jacqueline Prairie, will fly with Ellis to Ghana. Ellis said she plans to start her own non-governmental organization someday. She hopes the trip will provide her with a behind-the-scenes look at how NGOs work. It’s her first time outside of the United States and its territories (she went to Puerto Rico with her family when she was younger).

“I’m really excited to do something and be a part of the world,” Ellis said.

Below is a transcript of our chat with Kelsey on the Jacobs School Facebook page:

  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Hi everyone, we wanted to introduce you to Kelsey for our live chat: she's a structural engineering student, is a member of several student organizations and will travel to Ghana this summer. She is going to talk to us about her upcoming trip. Kelsey, are you there?
    50 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis Hello everyone! Yes I am here
    48 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Welcome Kelsey! Tells us a little bit about what you're going to do in Ghana this summer.
    46 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis This summer I will be traveling to Akwatia, Ghana as an IICAS Human Rights Fellow to conduct a technology and water survey of the Akwatia region. The survey will help to provide the NGO, Ghana Africa International Operations (GAIO) with some background information of where the region stands technology wise and their main sources of water. This information will hopefully allow GAIO to supply the library with the right educational tools for the villagers and running water in the library that is currently being built
    42 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering What are some of the things you've been doing to prepare for the trip, so you make the most of your time in Ghana?
    40 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis Well besides the normal preparations (as in shots, passport, and visas) I have been doing some research on the surrounding areas, because there is not much information on Akwatia itself. Looking into what the local cell phone providers are and how they get their power and water sources. I have also been creating my own survey that I will administer once I am in Akwatia.
    37 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering What will you do with all the information you collect once you get back to the United States?
    35 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis Once I get back to the US I will have inputted most of the information into an excel spreadsheet and from there I can use a graphical user interface (GUI) system and map out the areas of where the water sources are located and as well as what areas fall into certain categories based off of the survey. From there I will writing/producing a publishable article/video of how literacy and education as well as water are fundamental human rights, and how we are striving to bring them to the people of Akwatia.
    30 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering You are a member of Global TIES, which also is working with GAIO in Akwatia. Tells us a little bit about how that organization has changed your outlook on life and on engineering.
    28 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis Global TIES has been an amazing opportunity. Before I enrolled in this class, I thought being an engineer was strictly working in an office and helping to build buildings, to say the least. But once I started the TIES program it opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of engineering, that I never thought possible. TIES offers the perspective of Humanitarian Engineering, a fairly new and not well known field, that allows me to engage in all that I love engineering and also to help others. This program has truly changed my life, a year ago I would have never even considered going to Africa to help build a library, and look at me now! This is all thanks to the passion that lies within the teaching and experiences in the Global TIES program
    23 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering That's great! What advice would you have for students who are trying to find ways to get involved with student organizations and programs like Global TIES here at the Jacobs School?
    21 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis The best advice that I can offer is to just go for it. You have to be open to experiencing and exploring new and exciting opportunities that college has to offer. Isn't that what going to college is all about, finding where you belong in this vast world? I honestly took TIES at first to fill a technical elective requirement for graduating, and the class did sound interesting. But once I got into the class I fell in love and found a passion that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. Even if a club or a class sounds the tiniest bit interesting just go for it and see where it takes you.
    17 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering How did you find out about the IICAS Human Rights Fellowship that will take you to Ghana? What was the application process like?
    15 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis I actually received one of those automated emails from the Global TIES head TA Zach Salin, and I went to check out the info session that they were holding about the fellowship. I was the only hard science major there and one of the only few undergraduates that seemed interested in applying. It was weird how fate stepped in and showed me this amazing opportunity. The application process was similar to a scholarship application, just more intensive. I had to choose my own NGO that I wanted to work with, and write up 5 page proposal of the project that I wanted to conduct and how it pertains to human rights. It was challenging for me not being a writer or a liberal arts major. I honestly thought that it was a long shot that I was even going to win. It was hard waiting to here back, but I did over spring break and was ecstatic to find out that they had chosen me!
    9 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Congratulations again on being selected! All that hard work paid off. Tell us a little bit about what you plan to do after graduation.
    8 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis Thanks! After I graduate I plan on doing some traveling, taking a break from school for a bit. Ideally I would love to work abroad and maybe start my own NGO someday. Graduate school is still a possibility but not right away, I want a break from school and figure out what my next step will be. Right now I am keeping my options open and seeing where life takes me. I just know that what ever I do I will being doing something that I love and I will be helping people.
    5 minutes ago ·
  • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering That sounds great Kelsey! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We'll be checking back with you when you get back from Ghana. Good luck with everything!
    3 minutes ago ·
  • Kelsey Ellis Of course! Thanks again for having me :). I am looking forward to my trip and to share my experiences.
    a few seconds ago ·

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