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Africom And The Corps Of Engineers: Helmets Vs. Hard Hats

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Service Learning Projects in Developing Countries

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.165.1 - 14.165.17



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Paper Authors


Sharon deMonsabert George Mason University

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Dr. deMonsabert is an Associate Professor of Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering. She has over 15 years of academic experience. She researches and teaches courses related to Sustainable Development, Environmental Systems and Engineering, and Technical Entrepreneurship. Dr. deMonsabert was recently appointed to the position of Fellow for Academic Curricula at George Mason University.

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Cynthia Jester United States Army Corps of Engineers

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Graduate Student, Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, George Mason University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

AFRICOM and the Corps of Engineers Helmets .vs. Hardhats


Service learning projects in developing communities, offer an opportunity for students to gain a full appreciation for the cultural and political limitations that engineers face when providing technical support to developing nations. To satisfy the project requirement for the Civil and Infrastructure Engineering MS program at George Mason University, one student took on the daunting task of developing a framework for the US Army Corps of Engineers to provide civil works expertise to desperately needy areas of rural Africa. Africa is a vast continent with over 900 million people in 53 countries and it accounts for approximately 14% of the world’s population. Only 64% of the African population has access to improved water supply. Only 60% have any type of sanitation coverage. The situation is even more dire in rural areas. Africa has the lowest water supply and sanitation coverage in the world. These are the more discussed difficulties that lead to dangerous health situations and destabilization of an area. Yet, in 2000, large floods hit southern Africa, killing thousands of people and leaving 850,000 people homeless. Both droughts and flood have increased in frequency and severity over the past 30 years. There is widespread erosion and flooding along the African coastline, uprooting human settlements, dislodging port and navigational facilities, and upsetting coastal fisheries. With some of the poorest countries and harshest living conditions in the world, Africa’s strategic importance has always been debated. However, recent history shows that “sustainable peace requires economic development”. Many now recognize that peace and stability (or lack of) on the continent impact not only Africans but the international community. What should be done? In response in February 2007, the Department of Defense (DOD) created the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) whose overall mission is to “promote a stable and secure African environment”. It should be noted that the creation of AFRICOM has been met with mixed reviews. Some African nations have reservations so at this time DOD has decided that the AFRICOM headquarters will be situated in Germany instead of Africa. Questions still remain - What will promote stability and security in the current African environment? Can the Corps’ Civil Works expertise encourage sustainable development? How can an engineering workforce enhance stability in Africa? This paper describes a service learning project completed by a graduate environmental engineering student. Enhancing stability on the continent of Africa proved to be personally satisfying and professionally challenging. The faculty adviser and student learning objectives are presented and Liechardt scores for the accomplishment of each objective are shown. Results showed that although the project was challenging, the student persisted and benefitted personally and professionally.


The MS program in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering at George Mason University requires students to complete a project or thesis related to their field of study. Many students find a service learning project to be of greater interest and personal satisfaction.

deMonsabert, S., & Jester, C. (2009, June), Africom And The Corps Of Engineers: Helmets Vs. Hard Hats Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5401

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