Student Feature – Shaye Palagi

Shaye Palagi
Shaye (left) in Nepal after the April 2015 earthquake

Shaye Palagi

PhD Civil Engineering, Civil Systems

Expected EDC Certificate Completion: Fall 2016

Undergraduate: University of Colorado Boulder, B.S. Environmental Engineering

What are your hobbies outside of academic life?

I love running on the trails around Boulder, snowboarding when I can sneak away for a weekend, and waterskiing at home in Montana when I escape for a little longer. In a lot of ways though, academic life is my hobby, and I do a lot of reading outside of civil engineering.

How did you become interested in global development?

I don’t have a fancy story about being called to development work, I simply like being challenged and hope to live out a meaningful and compassionate career. I studied Peace and Conflict Studies, Religious Studies… I explored a lot of avenues to find a way to use engineering to engage with the world. Eventually, I was drawn to the realism and optimism of global development: not everything in the world is as it should or could be, but we have the potential to change things for the better.

Why did you join the EDC program?

CU’s EDC program is geared toward preparing me to work in the career I want. The coursework starts by providing foundational and theoretical understandings of development and then pushes me to gain active experience during field work. The EDC program also has the support of really wonderful faculty members. They are some of the most engaged professors I’ve had in my time at CU, and their experiences bring a lot to the program.

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned from the EDC program?

Oh boy… the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know very much at all. I can work really hard, eyes wide open, but there’s still so much I’m ignorant to. The EDC program has been humbling, but also empowering. I don’t feel unqualified to participate in global development, only instilled with a greater responsibility to do so thoughtfully.

Where do you hope to complete your practicum?

I haven’t done my practicum work yet, but since my research will focus on disaster recovery, I would like my practicum to be in a post-disaster environment. Although it wasn’t a practicum, this past summer I worked in Nepal with Build Change, a fantastic organization skilled at providing training for and incentivizing safe building practices. Build Change is new to Nepal, and I loved being there to help them grow their program and identify the best way to support reconstruction.

What do you hope to do after completing your EDC certificate?

I’d like to work as a practitioner in international development or disaster recovery. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for WASH projects, and I’d love to find a way to back to the water and sanitation world one day. I’m also a member of the Colorado Air National Guard and my unit responds to unique engineering challenges in the Pacific region. I hope experience and understanding gained in EDC will help support my role in military humanitarian missions to the Pacific.


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