December 23, 2011

The Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity in the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering examines the complexities of poverty in an effort to create scalable, feasible solutions that can be applied in greater Dallas and around the globe.

In January a new Master of Arts in Sustainability and Development will be offered by the Lyle School and supported by the Hunt Institute. Like the Institute, the Master’s program will focus on research, seminars, site-based internships and service learning opportunities in the local area. Coursework will concentrate on sustainability, environmental resources and urban development.

The Master’s program contributes another dimension to the Hunt Institute’s mission to identify and create innovative and affordable technology that, in combination with market forces, will help accelerate improvements for the poor everywhere. The Institute’s efforts center on access to clean water; creating affordable shelter, including design justice for the marginalized; hygiene education and promotion; access to energy; and meeting basic infrastructure needs.

“To make basic technology available at a price the poorest of the poor can afford requires a radical rethinking of centuries of engineering practice,” says Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the Lyle School.

The harshness of life for the billions of people who exist without these building blocks was brought home by the Hunt Institute during SMU’s Engineering & Humanity Week in April. In the “Living Village” constructed on campus that week, participants cooked their meals, spent time and slept in temporary shelters designed to house those living in extreme poverty or displaced by war and natural disasters.

Jonathan L. Barger ’11 was among the students who shared their thoughts on a blog devoted to the living-learning experience: “Like others, I jolted awake several times and only achieved light sleep – imagine having to spend the night like this for several months, surrounded by thousands of other people. Quite sobering.”