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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Global Attitudes of Rural Technical Inferiority as a Cause for Migration to Cities in the Non-Industrialized World: The Speaker

Guide supporting the Center for Global Studies program of the same name - December 4, 2019

About the Talk

A global predisposition toward disengagement with rural societies not only has created a trend toward urban migration but has produced as snowballing loss of techno-diversity. In the same way we recognize the value of biodiversity and seek to preserve plant and animal species that have evolved specifically to adapt to location and time, we need to recognize a need to preserve place-based technical thought - which we call innovative self-sufficiency. By collaboratively designing place-focused technical applications for rural societies, technical designs can better equip societies to preserve rural livelihoods, stabilize urban migration, and ensure sufficient food production capabilities to meet local population needs. 

About the Speaker

Ann-Perry Witmer has followed a curious path through life, ultimately coming to engineering in midlife when she enrolled in the University of Illinois' College of Engineering after a successful career in newspapering. After graduating with honors and becoming the first civil engineering major ever to win the prestigious Harvey Jordan Award from the College of Engineering, she became a practicing professional engineer in Wisconsin, designing water systems for communities throughout the Midwest. She also helped to create organizations that work directly with communities in Central America and the Caribbean to provide engineering assistance for disadvantaged communities in need of safe, sustainable drinking water. 

Ann now teaches freshman engineering electives as well as engineering service design courses at the university, and she is faculty advisor to Engineers Without Borders-UIUC and AWWA/WEF. Her service travels have taken her to Central America, Africa, Asia, and South America, where she's developed a deep understanding of the relationship between technical and social considerations that must be co-evaluated for communities in need. This global perspective has informed her engineering approach domestically by incorporating a collaborative, holistic understanding of the client's needs and expectations to produce a durable, sustainable infrastructure. In addition to her engineering degree from the University of Illinois, Ann also holds degrees in journalism and art history magna cum laude from Boston University. She is currently pursuing a novel graduate degree in engineering that investigates the relationship between technical design and non-engineering considerations like politics, culture, and economics.

(taken from Ann-Perry Witmer's faculty page through Grainger Engineering)


Illinois International Graduate Achievement Award, 2017

J. Frederick Miller Award for distinguished volunteer service, University YMCA, 2017

Leon Smith Award for outstanding service, Wisconsin Water Association, 2008

Harvey Jordan Award, University of Illinois College of Engineering, 2002

Public Service Award, Isaac Walton League of America, Illinois Division, 1990

Keystone Press Award, Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association, 1984


Institute Affiliate, Applied Research Institutue

Research Mentor, Carle Illinois College of Medicine

Illinois Water Scholar, Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment

Faculty, Center for African Studies

Faculty, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Faculty, Center for Global Studies

Publications by the Speaker

Jahnke, K., A. Witmer, M. Tan, and G. Witmer. "Bringing a Cross-Disciplinary, Contextual Approach to International Service Engineering Learning." Presented at 2016 ASEE Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, LA. DOI: 10.18260/p.26395

Witmer, Ann-Perry. "Addressing the Influence of Context and Development in Rural International Engineering Design." Open Dissertations, 2018.

_______________. "Considering Context in Engineering Design." Presented at 2017 Engineers Without Borders-USA National Conference, Milwaukee, WI. 

_______________. "Contextual Engineering Assessment Using an Influence-Identification Tool." Journal of Engineering, Design & Technology, vol. 16, no. 6, 2018, pp. 889-909. 

_______________. "Contextual Engineering to Address Preservation of Rural Societies." Journal of Academic Perspectives, 2018, pp. 1-10. 

_______________. "Drawing Upon Non-Engineering Disciplines to Research Sustainability of Engineered Infrastructure in South America." Presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, LA. DOI: 10.18260/p.26868. 

_______________. "The Influence of Development Objectives and Local Context Upon International Service Engineering Infrastructure Design." International Journal of Technology Management & Sustainable Development, vol. 17, no. 2, 2018, pp. 135-150. DOI: 10.1386/tmsd.17.2.135_1.

_______________. "Letting Go for Success in International Service." Presented at TEDxUIUC Conference, Urbana, IL. 

_______________. "Making the Case for Food Security through Contextual Engineering." Journal of Agriculture and Horticulture Research, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1-4.

_______________. "Women in Engineers Without Borders." Women and Ideas in Engineering: Twelve Stories from Illinois, edited by Laura Hahn and Angie Wolters, University of Illinois Press, 2018.