College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Emma Shepard: Outstanding senior in environmental engineering


West Des Moines, Iowa 

Clubs and activities

Engineers Without Borders, University Honors Program, Saint Thomas Aquinas student leadership, Kappa Delta Sorority, Tau Beta Pi, Student Government Sustainability Committee, Peace Corps Prep Program, Environmental Engineering Curriculum Committee, Environmental Engineering Learning Community Peer Mentor, studied abroad in Italy and Ireland, various undergraduate research positions and intramural teams 

Valuable hands-on learning in class 

My most valuable in-the-classroom hands-on learning experience was my final project for ENV E 428, Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Design, collaborating with a team to develop design alternatives to retrofit an existing wastewater facility. This was an invaluable experience combining knowledge from various classes to evaluate our design alternatives with cost and environmental considerations and professionally present our findings at the project’s conclusion.  

Out-of-the-classroom engineering experience 

My most valuable out-of-the-classroom hands-on learning experience was traveling to Ullo, Ghana over the past winter break with Engineers Without Borders. As a former sanitation team lead, my role was to construct a pit latrine that we designed for female high school students who did not have a functioning restroom facility. This was an incredible opportunity to not only implement a real-world engineering project, but also to personally know and work alongside the community members that we design our projects for.  

Most influential mentor 

My most influential mentor at Iowa State was CCEE associate professor Chris Rehmann. Dr. Rehmann has been an extremely encouraging research mentor over the past four years, equipping me to tackle any problem that I may take on and inspiring me to connect environmental engineering with social responsibility through his passion for environmental justice. CCEE associate professor Kaoru Ikuma has also been very influential as a role model of strong women in the field. Dr. Ikuma has inspired me to confidently pursue projects that I am passionate about and solve problems with a systems perspective through her teaching in many undergraduate courses.  

Best memory

My favorite thing about my time at Iowa State has been getting to know so many different people through my involvement in a variety of activities. Being involved with a wide range of organizations and study abroad programs has made Iowa State feel like home while introducing me to many diverse perspectives that I will carry into future endeavors. 

Plans after graduation 

I plan to teach high school STEM classes in Belize for a year with SOLT, a Catholic international missionary community, before pursuing graduate studies in environmental engineering.  

Making my mark on the world 

I am excited to implement knowledge from my environmental engineering degree and sustainability minor to develop innovative solutions to sanitation and sustainable development challenges, particularly in the areas of clean water distribution and waste management. My goal is to improve environmental health and quality of life in the communities that I serve. 

Engineering like a Cyclone Engineer 

Engineering “like a Cyclone” means to emphasize teamwork and view issues from a systems approach. When we work together, we can combine perspectives to view the bigger picture and solve problems in new ways. Engineering at Iowa State has equipped me with a unique, diverse skill set that I will be able to apply to any challenge that I take on in my future career.