Big Brother on Campus

Author: Linda Hupp
With his eye on the prize of a master's degree in civil engineering, Daniel Salazar plans on making a difference in the world he lives in.

At first glance, you might think that Daniel Salazar (BSCE ’07), staff resident of Cary Quad, is just another grad student making his way through one of the most famous residence halls of Purdue. But you’d be wrong. Salazar’s world view resonates far out from these hallowed halls, where he dreams of a world of engineers helping those less fortunate in a global economy.

Born in New York City to Colombian parents, Salazar brings an international perspective to almost everything he does. His father’s job took the family from the Big Apple to Colombia before Salazar turned 8, so the banker’s eldest son continued his education in South America through the age of 18. “I hold two passports, have worked in the U.S. and Colombia, and have even voted for presidents in each country,” Salazar says. “I feel fortunate that I happened to have been born in America and experienced both cultures.”

Always interested in bridges, architecture, and how things are built, Salazar sought out the best schools internationally to further his education. This research led to his discovery of the outstanding reputation of Purdue’s School of Civil Engineering. With a Purdue bachelor’s degree in hand, he now expects to earn his MSCE in May 2009. True to his first engineering love, Salazar has an emphasis in structural design.

Daniel Salazar and little brothers Aaron (above) and Timmy (right).

But it’s not all structures and designs for this civil engineering student. Salazar is interested in the structure of a good family life as well. Perhaps missing his two little brothers back home, Salazar found fun and fulfillment through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program of Wabash Valley. Since 2005, Salazar has been paired with two “little brothers”: boys now 12 and 7. “I have always had a great rapport with kids,” Salazar says. “It probably comes from spending so much time with my own younger brothers.”

And beyond the rapport and friendship Salazar can offer, he knows his “tangible impact on the individual and the community” keeps him involved in the Big Brother Program. “It’s being a constant that’s important,” he says. “It’s a constant support system, much like parenting."

As he looks toward his professional and personal future, Salazar hopes to maintain that impact on both individuals and community. This summer, he’s working for CH2M Hill, a Denver-based engineering consulting company he could see himself joining full time after graduation. It’s the scope of the company’s projects that intrigues Salazar the most. “Although headquartered in Colorado, CH2M Hill sends out their engineers wherever they’re needed globally,” Salazar says. He likens the CH2M philosophy to the “Doctors Without Borders” program.

CH2M’s projects could range from the design and implementation of a clean-water well to the development of a much-needed bridge benefiting the infrastructure of an entire community and much beyond. And the company’s commitment to bettering humanity through engineering appeals to the likeminded Salazar. To engineer a better way. To make a difference in the world. To impact a single life in a positive way. These are the motivations of a global-thinking graduate student determined to leave his mark on the world. So goes the path of Daniel Salazar, a big brother on a mission.