The Engineer

img_5288Origins: I’m Will Garde and It is true, I have a short memory, but I may never admit that to my wife. However, we all have those instances, words, or visuals that are seared into our memory—forever changing our journey through life. Mine happened in 2009, when I was searching for direction after graduating high school. I traveled to Tanzania and my father’s birthplace, Zimbabwe. The missionary I was with had founded an elementary school in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and we were headed to dinner with the director. I recall the missionary’s words, “Careful, raw sewage runs down this street. Don’t touch anything, cholera is a nasty disease.” Earlier that day I had witnessed a city of rubble and overgrown vegetation, which contrasted sharply with my childhood memories of a beautiful city. That day and those experiences inspired me to become an engineer.

Infrastructure: What I observed in Zimbabwe and Tanzania was the power of infrastructure and the severe contrast between countries with this economic backbone in place and those without it. In 2014, I graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. During my collegiate career, I worked for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Cincinnati in the Local Sewers and Construction departments. I learned how to design residential sewers, manage sewer projects with a multitude of stakeholders, and the general construction sequence required to build them. From there I moved on to a company in San Antonio, Texas and worked on land development projects. This is where I developed a knack for small scale watershed modeling and hydrology.

I continued to become more interested in water, both in its use and management, which is why I decided to pursue my M.S. in Environmental Engineering, specializing in Environmental Hydrology (in non-engineering terms: the movement of water) at the University of Cincinnati. More about that and my research in coffee below.

IMG_1825Coffee: More than once, I have been asked why am I obsessed with coffee. Over the past few years, I’ve realized there is one common answer among us coffee lovers—coffee is relational and it brings people together. The world of specialty coffee is unique because of its concern for all parts of the supply chain and quality is celebrated. Specialty coffee farmers take pride in their product, coffee roasters are seeking to establish direct trade with farmers to improve coffee quality and profits for the farmers, and consumers continue to show their interest in the transparency of specialty coffee through purchasing ethically responsible coffee. This is a world that we are proud to be a part of—a world where we see the marginalized and we take action.fullsizeoutput_538

As I have continued to be a part of this world, it has led me on a path I never anticipated. With the help of my wife and brother, I founded Alloy Coffee, a coffee experiment that sold one coffee for one project that was focused on raising social, educational, or economic capital for grassroots organizations. We successfully completed one project, but my wife and I left Cincinnati and moved to Houston, Texas, which ended Alloy Coffee. However, I learned a lot (including how to roast some coffee!) and it propelled me further into the world of specialty coffee.

Additionally, I have been an SCAA Symposium Fellow twice over the past two years due to my research on coffee wastewater treatment. I completed my M.S. in Environmental Engineering specializing in hydrology and wastewater treatment. My thesis research involved developing a new sustainable treatment alternative for coffee fermentation wastewater. More to come on this once the journal paper is published!


Sustainability: A quote from my professor: “Sustainability is like love; everyone wants more of it, but no one can define it.” Thanks to marketing and the “be green” advertising, this word has come to mean something different to every single person, but I believe the United States EPA does a great job with its definition: “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have, and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.” I hope to tear down erroneous preconceptions of sustainability and provide practical information on what sustainability is and how we hope to accomplish it in Civil and Environmental Engineering.


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