A New Year

Here's to a brand new year and all the goals that we set for ourselves. Also, take a look at the amazing projects our Purdue faculty have worked on.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote is on the lock screen of my phone, so that I can be constantly reminded of how my highest-self wants to live.  January is a great time to try to find our purpose.  To make a resolution to be the kind of person we want to be.  I do have those lists of habits that I want to do more of, just like everybody else –flossing, fasting, exercising, reading – but those don’t get to the essence of what I want to BE.   So, I searched and searched and finally came upon the words that resonated with me the most.  “What are you doing for others?”  And from Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful voice.  A man who dedicated his life to service, stood up for what he believed in, and spoke his truth.  This is how I want to live.  This is who I want to be.   

But I have to tell you, it’s going to take a lot of practice!  It isn’t always easy.  Muddy thoughts get in the way.  I have to remind myself that I’m not doing this for praise, or recognition, or gratitude.  And sometimes I’m too tired and wonder when it’s my turn.  Those are not the thoughts of a higher being.  But then, Amanda Gorman reminded me in her poem “The Hill We Climb” that we are not “striving to form a union that is perfect.  We are striving to forge a union with purpose…”  I don’t have to be perfect. I can be a flawed person and yet still be mindful that my ultimate goal is to do something for others.  And maybe, with practice, my thoughts will become clearer.  And maybe, at the end of each day, I’ll start writing down and being grateful for all the things that others have done for me.

One thing that I absolutely love about my job, is that I get to sit in on meetings where people are a living example of my goal. 

The Shah Family Global Innovation Lab, founded on Manu Shah’s vision, and directed by Pallavi Gupta, does just that.  They bring NGOs (non-governmental organizations) from across the globe, such as World Concern, CRS, PLAN, SEWA, and others, together with Purdue faculty from all across campus, to work on problems that the world is facing.  Problems in health and wellbeing, agriculture and food security, environment and energy, water management and irrigation, and education.  My job is to coordinate the meetings.  So, I get to sit in on the Zoom calls and listen to conversations between the faculty and NGOs as they search for solutions to the various problems.  If the two parties decide that it would be beneficial to work together, they’ll write a proposal that is taken to Shah Labs for a chance to be awarded a seed grant that will help fund their research and a possible solution. 

This is why engineering is so cool!  You have a chance to affect many people’s lives across the entire planet.  Go to our project’s page to see over 25 examples of how our Purdue faculty has touched the lives of people all over the globe.   

What is your purpose for 2021?  Don’t worry if you don’t have one.  It took me half a century to figure out mine, and it’s ever changing and evolving.  Just like all of us.  Here’s to a better new year!


Written by Rhonda Haan

photo credit: Jude Beck, Unsplash