Local woman helps to design water system in Uganda

By Page H. Gifford

If you ask most young women in high school what they want to do with their lives and what career they plan on pursuing, chances are they will sometimes lean toward a career in nursing or becoming an English professor or education or child studies – all solid and noble professions women often undertake. But Nicole Kent chose a different path not often considered by young women, civil engineering.

For those who hold their nose while taking math and science to get college credit, Kent embraced her courses and developed a passion for them.

“I was a little hesitant entering into college and not knowing what civil engineering encompassed, but I had always loved studying math and science, so I figured I would enjoy it and I have,” said Kent.

A graduate of Fluvanna High School in 2017, she will be completing her degree in engineering at the University of South Carolina. During her junior and senior years of high school, Kent had begun thinking about pursuing a degree that would allow her to enter into developing nations to help them physically while being involved with missions.

“I started paying more attention to the issues that were being faced internationally, which is when I first heard more about the global water crisis. It was crazy to hear about people who had little to no access to clean drinking water and I decided I wanted to be able to help make a difference through engineering solutions in water infrastructure.”

She was able to get involved with a wide range of engineering opportunities while working on her degree at the University of South Carolina,  including joining the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, doing undergraduate research in water resources engineering, studying  abroad in Thailand, and taking on a few internships. All of that confirmed to her that civil engineering was what she wanted to do.

Through Engineering Ministries International (EMI), which is a Christian non-profit organization, Kent will be involved in a program to help design a water system in Uganda. The group is composed of design professionals who use engineering and architecture to meet peoples’ physical needs while engaging in Christian relationships

“EMI has offices around the world, but the Uganda office is specifically working on a few projects right now, including dormitories for a boarding school, an addition to a hospital, and a living facility for disabled orphans,” said Kent. “I will get to help with the design of some of these projects that are still in the design phase as well as assist in overseeing construction management for projects in that phase.  In addition to the engineering work, I will have the opportunity to volunteer with local ministries, schools, churches, and other non-profits to serve in that capacity as well.”

After this program, Kent said she will be returning to Columbia, South Carolina, where she  attended the University of South Carolina to work for a regional private engineering consulting firm.

“Over the next four years, I will be pursuing my professional engineering (PE) license in water resources engineering.  My long-term goal is to work for a nonprofit on projects assisting the global water crisis,” she said. “I would love to be able to spend more time abroad in doing this and could even see myself working in disaster relief either through volunteer work or even as a career. I know I will always continue to have a passion for developing communities and my hope is to always be partnering in some way with them, but I think it will just depend on whether or not I am doing that in a volunteer role or career role throughout different seasons of life.”

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