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UI alum Marcelo Mena-Carrasco received the International Impact award

BY GRETA MEYLE | NOVEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Affecting the world one environmental feat at a time, Marcelo Mena-Carrasco has accomplished many notable projects in the realm of sustainability. Conquering air-pollution and water-quality problems in Chile, as well as making an impact at both Universidad Andrés Bello of Santiago and the University of Iowa, Mena-Carrasco received the International Impact Award Nov. 8.

“Dr. Mena-Carrasco lives the name of this award to its fullest extent — international impact,” said University of Iowa President Sally Mason during the ceremony. “We thank him for his creative and tireless work on behalf of the world’s people and we express our deepest appreciation for his continued fruitful relationships with the University of Iowa and its students.”

The award Mena-Carrasco received, the International Impact Award, is awarded to individuals by the UI and International Programs to honor those in any field of study “who have made sustained and deep contributions internationally or in the U.S. to promote global understanding.”

Mena-Carrasco is the fourth to be given this award, following Richard and Mary Jo Stanley (2010), Trudy Huskamp Peterson (2011), and Hualing Nieh Engle (2012).

Mason said sustainability is a passion that has always been a priority of hers at the UI campus, and she sees that passion reflected in Mena-Carrasco.

“He finished at about the same time I came, and I feel that I have followed in his footsteps in terms of the pioneering types of things he has done on campus,” Mason said. “We are proud to count Marcelo among our recent alumni who have made a significant impact on the international stage.”

A native of Chile, and also a graduate who received a master’s degree and Ph.D in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa in 2003 and 2007, Mena-Carrasco has begun to leave his mark in Chile. He started as the chairman of the Environmental Engineering Department at Universidad Andrés Bello and worked on the air-pollution problem Santiago has, particularly forecasting bad-air days.

“I am impatient, and I want change fast,” Mena-Carrasco said during the ceremony. “I don’t want 10 years down the road for the problem to be solved, I want deadlines and to really push forward in reaching these goals.”

Mena-Carrasco is working on further surmounting issues of air quality in Chile. According to Mena-Carrasco, 5,000 people die for pollution every year in Chile.

Craig Just, a UI assistant professor civil and environmental engineering who has worked with Mena-Carrasco, said he believes Mena-Carrasco is exemplary.

“I teach my class in the context of being sustainable citizens who want to do things,” Just said during the ceremony. “And here’s someone who wants to do things and so part of my understanding of sustainability over the years through interacting with Marcelo … taught me that that’s what it means. [Sustainability is] about citizens and students acting on behalf of the knowledge they have and doing things the right way.”

Currently, Mena-Carrasco says there have been no solutions yet that he has reached through his work on air-quality issues in Chile, but he said there is more awareness of the issue than before.

“In the end, [sustainability] is about loving where we live and protecting who we love,” Mena-Cerrasco said. “And I no doubt that we will look back upon this decade as the one where the world got together to face the climate crisis. And the university will be leading the way by example and the many alums of the University of Iowa will take home the seeds of sustainability to plant across the world.”


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