Olivier Montmayeur: Technical skill class

Students from RIT’s colleges of engineering, art and design, business, liberal arts and individualized studies participated in the pilot course, Social Impact Field Experience in Haiti. Here is one of the student’s impressions of the trip:

“I came into the experience as a master’s/bachelor’s student doing an independent study on crop drying, which is a form of food transformation,” said Olivier Montmayeur, an undergraduate engineering student from France. “On the first day, food transformation was identified as one of four major topics for the teams to work on. I chose to expand my experience and work on the education project instead of the food transformation. It was a fascinating experience comparing standard education system here in the United States to that in Haiti. Our final proposal was a shop/technical skill class that provided practical abilities like carpentry to build infrastructure such as benches for students, improving skills and building schools. This would ideally provide structure for students after school, help improve school buildings, and make education more accessible.

“The hardest difficulty for us was always the translation and the mindset. The women we worked with are extremely intelligent and knowledgeable about life. The discrepancy comes between how we perceive problems and how to ask questions. The mindset we might approach a discussion and the answers we are looking for may not translate well or be conceived in translation. Progress anywhere in the world when changing people's lives takes time, the delays with translation make this process longer. Patience and rewording your ideas comes a long way.

“My most cherished lesson is the combination of my engineering degree with the practical world. I have spent the past seven years of life tutoring and helping people. I love being out in the world and helping others. But I also realize how much involving your end-user in the process matters. The most well-developed and sophisticated design could be made that solves every problem, but if the user doesn't want it, then what’s the point? My highest priority would be to move to Haiti and do social design work in Borgne. This would hopefully be in conjunction with HOPE. I would like to continue my thesis work and help develop solid communication between RIT and our Haitian stakeholders. Otherwise I can see myself pursuing a full-time lecturer position at a university, with industry experience or a Ph.D. prior to that point. But I feel deep down that as Sarah [Brownell] says, ‘the mountains are calling.’”