Hampshire Student Isaiah Brown F20 Spent the Summer in Kenya Researching Water Quality

We talked to him about what led up to this exciting opportunity with International Research Experiences for Students (IRES), which aims to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering. The program makes it possible for students to study issues regarding the lack of safe water, electricity, and sanitation in communities around the world.
Where are you from? What attracted you to Hampshire?
I’m from eastern Massachusetts. Hampshire’s unique learning environment is always an attraction to students who learn best by nontraditional methods. I was among those who came to this school for that reason, but I also saw the potential in an education system that could enable students to craft a major uniquely their own.
Most students experience the standard four-year process of freshman to senior, which is more rigid and often inflexible. Hampshire’s divisional process is a more fluid platform. It allows me to explore a wider range of academic disciplines and gives me more room for self-exploration and growth.
What areas of study are you most interested in?
Due to the nature of my high school, Norfolk County Agricultural, I’ve been an environmental science major since my junior year there. I’ve continued studying in this area, though now through the lenses of social justice, green technologies, and sustainability. I knew from the start that in order to really understand environmental science, all aspects of the concept of “environment” must be studied.
Tell us about your experience in Nairobi.
The IRES program is open to students from the Five Colleges and gives them the opportunity to focus on learning and experiencing work abroad. In this instance, the program consisted of two groups of engineers, one a team concentrating on water and the other on energy. Together, the groups immersed themselves in Nairobi’s communities to help understand some key issues.
My team, the IRES Water Team, consisted of a mix of postdoctoral, Ph.D., master’s, and undergraduate students studying the systems of intermittent water supply. Our team was tasked with going out into Machakos County and sampling the water from both households and water-treatment facilities/sources to determine its quality.
In addition to learning about intermittent water supply, I was able to grow as an individual. It was my first time abroad, on my own, with a group I didn’t know beforehand. This kind of uncertainty tested my adaptability and pushed me to change in an environment I was initially unfamiliar with. However, with  the knowledge I had accumulated from Hampshire and the Five Colleges, I was able to keep up with my peers, gain new skills, and overall outperform myself in a way that was healthy and constructive for my character.

Group in Nairobi
Group in Nairobi
Water plant
Sunset in Kenya

All photos by Isaiah Brown, who can be seen top left.