Gannett Fleming Awards Forces of Change AWWA Scholarship

Gannett Fleming Awards Forces of Change AWWA Scholarship

Gannett Fleming Awards Forces of Change AWWA Scholarship

June 6, 2022

Gannett Fleming is proud to support future leaders in the water industry through the Gannett Fleming Forces of Change Scholarship, part of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Scholarship Program. We award this $5,000 academic scholarship annually to an undergraduate or master’s-level engineering student who has a passion for engineering the future of the water industry.

This year, we’re proud to introduce Elisa Rivera, a graduate student in environmental engineering at San Diego State University and former president of the university’s AWWA student chapter, as our 2022-2023 scholarship recipient. Read on to learn more about Elisa’s passion for helping decentralized communities treat their wastewater and what she enjoys doing when not in the classroom or lab.

1. You just graduated from San Diego State University. What's next?

After graduating from San Diego State University, I have decided to continue my education by achieving my master’s degree, where I’ll be focusing mostly on water reuse and water resources.

2. What is leading you to pursue a career in engineering?

I feel that the field of engineering is essential for true change and improvements to our everyday lives, and I see that constantly in my professors, bosses, and colleagues. That’s why I want to be a part of the engineering industry: to make true change and improvements in everyone’s lives, no matter if that’s in large cities or rural communities.

3. With a specialization in water, what positive impact do you hope to have on the water industry?

I plan to improve water quality in both our drinking water and water bodies in order to enhance the quality of life in many different communities, whether it be in big cities or decentralized communities. I plan on doing this through design and research, especially for communities that may not have access to advanced water quality techniques. I plan on helping those communities the most.

4. Tell us about your leadership experience with AWWA.

I have been involved with the AWWA since my junior year of college, when I was the vice president of the student chapter at San Diego State University. Then, the following year, I was the president. During this time, I connected faculty members and industry leaders with students who are interested in water, and I connected students with AWWA. This experience gave me a lot of leadership skills and really taught me how to delegate certain tasks, which has gotten me ready for my career in the future. I’m just grateful for AWWA for giving me this opportunity to meet everyone in the water industry.

5. You're passionate about research. Tell us a little about your recent research experience.

Over the past year, I have been working at the Water Innovative Reuse Lab at San Diego State University, where I’ve been researching more effective ways of treating nitrogen in our wastewater. This is specifically for application in decentralized communities that may not have access to more modern, centralized techniques, like nitrification or denitrification. Basically, I was tasked to grow this bacteria called anammox, which stands for ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. They are supposed to be more effective in consuming ammonia and converting that ammonia straight to nitrogen gas, without any harmful byproducts. I can safely say that the anammox is growing and will actually be treating real wastewater. It’s very cost-effective and easy to maintain; this is done with an anaerobic baffled reactor, which makes it novel from other research that has been done with anammox bacteria.

6. How will this scholarship help you achieve your educational goals?

With this scholarship awarded to me by Gannett Fleming, I will not need to worry about student loans; I can fully focus on my education and research. I will be able to come out of my education without any student loans or debt, so I’m extremely grateful to Gannett Fleming for providing this amazing opportunity.

7. When not working to advance your engineering acumen, what do you like to do in your free time?

I like doing many things. I love to oil paint, and I love to garden. Currently, I’m growing tomatoes, corn, sugar snap peas, spinach, you name it. I love cooking vegetarian meals since I’m a vegetarian, and I also recently started going to the gym more often. Basically, I love doing things that increase my personal growth as well as my career growth, but outside of my career, this is what I like to do.

Save the date for the 2023-2024 Gannett Fleming Forces of Change Scholarship!

Bookmark this page and save the date on your calendar to return in September 2022 for the 2023-2024 AWWA Scholarship Program applications, including our Forces of Change Scholarship. Scholarships are open to undergraduate or graduate students who will graduate after August 2023 and pursue a career in the water sector.

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