Engineering News Fall 2016

Well Begun

The adage goes, “well begun is half done,” but though Class of 2012 valedictorian Nathan Rogers definitely started off well as a Santa Clara graduate, he's nowhere near half-finished with all his good work in the world. As a civil engineering undergraduate, Rogers focused his senior design efforts on improving sustainable design and construction methods for housing in Ghana, trading vacation time for a five-week stint in a remote village there and, along the way, finding purpose in living what he terms "a constructive life." Post SCU, he has worked his way up the ranks at Google from operations coordinator to construction manager on the Google Fiber project in Raleigh, North Carolina, but his mission to help others continues.

In late 2015 Rogers co-founded Well Constructed, a 501(c)3 NGO dedicated to providing clean drinking water to Ghana's poorest rural regions. He took a week off from Google to launch the project in Bolgatanga, in the country's remote northeast. "The water situation is pretty bleak up there," he reported then; "I witnessed a physical altercation between three women, fighting for the last dirty water at the bottom of a dry stream. But with time, money, and effort, that can change. Our contractor completed construction and commissioned our first well, which will provide clean drinking water to about a thousand people. Drinking the fresh tested water with the community for the first time was a surreal experience." In return for his efforts, the community generously rewarded Rogers with a goat and two guinea fowl. "My three days of building a relationship with my new pets ended bittersweetly with an epic feast," he quipped.

By spring's end, Well Constructed had built seven wells serving about 7,000 people in Ghana's Upper East Region, all within 20 miles of the library built by SCU students. "Fees of about 25 cents per month per family will create a maintenance fund for the wells and can also be used for small business loans for the communities," said Rogers, who is currently taking a six-month leave of absence from Google to advance this and other projects. In October he will return to inspect the completed wells, conduct training for local volunteers, and further develop the group's operating model. "We're currently funding the wells in full, but we're considering a microfinance model where communities pay us back at a very low interest rate. It is a tough balancing act between being able to serve more communities and empowering them with a sense of ownership versus being able to serve the communities in direst need," he said.

Rogers has also helped these communities by raising interest and awareness in STEM education and careers, working with Junior Achievement Africa to create a 12-week STEM Campaign for junior high and high school students in Sub-Saharan Africa and teaching weekly coding classes to students in a small school outside the capital of Accra.

So yes, you could say that Nathan Rogers is well begun, and not even half done!

To contribute—a mere $100 provides clean water to 30 children who can remain in class longer instead of walking miles to fetch water—visit wellconstructed.org.

Alumni, Engineering
Well Begun, civil engineering, Nathan Rogers

Nathan Rogers ’12 in Ghana. Photo courtesy of Nathan Rogers