Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Master of Arts, May 2010
Concentration: Practical International Development
Matt Sisul is expanding his understanding of the role that physical infrastructure plays in international development and poverty alleviation by engaging in coursework that will focus on economic development and public health.
Matt started his academic career studying engineering at Columbia University. Benefiting from a program with an emphasis on a liberal arts education, Matt quickly learned the value of breadth of knowledge. His choice of major, Civil Engineering, found a perfect compliment in a minor in Architecture.
After graduating, Matt began working for the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. Engaged in large-scale public infrastructure projects like bridges, tunnels and subways, Matt was given the opportunity to learn first-hand how projects are managed and how infrastructures are created and maintained in the developed world. Looking to apply his skills for those who needed it more, Matt was drawn into the newly formed New York Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-NY). He became the chapter president in August of 2006, a position he currently holds and is responsible for developing the chapter, introducing new projects, and increasing membership.
At EWB-NY, Matt started with a role on the first project team, a potable water source for a village in Kenya. After a number of successful experiences, Matt began to see the limitations of the EWB model. He believes that engineers alone cannot lift communities out of poverty. They could alleviate suffering, but in order to succeed, a multidisciplinary approach is needed.
Through his studies at Gallatian and as an NYU Reynolds Fellow, Matt looks forward to increasing his knowledge base in a variety of areas beyond those of traditional engineering. In so doing, he hopes to be better prepared to draw in experts from other fields that - in conjunction with engineering efforts- will maximize the efforts to alleviate poverty in the developing world.
In the summer of 2009, Matt traveled to Honduras to pursue the link between technical assistance organizations, local NGOs, and government organizations as they provided infrastructure services and delivery in developing countries. He advised the construction of a foot bridge in a remote village in the south of the country, teaming with an American NGO, an American university, Ayuda en Accion and the local community. He also oversaw the construction of a library in Usalama, Kenya, and teamed up with Reynolds Fellow Lauren Servin to investigate and assess the potential for developing a secondary school in Southern Sudan. Matt is currently working on his Master's thesis at Gallatin on the subject of Rural Infrastructure Service Delivery in Developing Countries with decentralized local government administration. Concurrent to his thesis work, Matt continues to volunteer for the New York Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders and has been helping develop a new international development design nonprofit, Build Foundations, working on its first project in Haiti and developing the organization's operations and project procedures.