UNL student helps to light the night in Madagascar
Posted: Thu, Jan 9, 2014
From a conversation with Keith Ozanne, a biological systems engineering senior at UNL:
I don't have words enough to thank all the donors for what they've given me. If they were here in front of me, I'd tell them this:
Thank you for giving me such an amazing and rich college experience. Without you, I probably would have led a very different path up until now.
I'm in my fifth year at UNL, studying biological systems engineering. I hope to go to medical school. Thanks to scholarships, I've been lucky enough to not have to pay for any of my classes or books. I've been able to stay on campus and get involved in research with Dr. Greg Bashford, who's become an amazing mentor to me. I've been a student ambassador for the college, helping recruit engineering students. Right now, I'm training to be a physiology teaching assistant so I can learn more about physiology before I go to medical school. All the things I've been involved in on campus are thanks to the fact that I don't have to worry about money. I've been able to join different organizations that have really expanded my world.
Last summer, I traveled to Madagascar as part of the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. I was on the solar panel team. There were few lights over there. It would get dark by 6 o'clock and then just be pitch black. We wore headlamps around at night. Our objective was to go there and install solar panels in schools so students could study at night. In Madagascar, the only way to go to secondary schools is to pass an exam in the fifth grade. Students now are studying three hours a night for the exam, under those lights, and their parents don't have to pay for candles or diesel fuel to light their own houses.
I grew up in Lincoln. I grew up well. So to see poverty like that was kind of surreal. The place where we purchased our solar panels was in the middle of all these shacks that had meat hanging in the windows – shacks not even as big as a car. It's made me not take anything for granted.
To actually design a system that's going to be built and then to go and install it and to see the whole engineering process – it gave us so much more of the real-world experience of engineering. And to get to talk to people there and see how happy they were with the lights, that was amazing. (We handed out tons of T-shirts that said Nebraska Engineering. It was cool to see so many people wearing them!)
People in engineering are bright. You have to be pretty smart to make it through these classes. And a lot of times, people in engineering have big goals to make a difference in the world. But in order to do that, you can't just be in your little bubble. You need to be well-rounded. I feel that all of my experiences at UNL have given me that, and the donors who've helped me are a huge part of that.
That's why someday when I have money I'd like to set up some sort of fund – even if it's just a thousand dollars – because I know it can make a huge difference for a student.
I know what it did for me.
Student Support and Global Engagement are two top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska, now in its final year in 2014. If you would like to help bright students like Keith Ozanne achieve their goals, please consider giving online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.