McCormick Student Ben Shorofsky Wins Circumnavigator Award

Ben Shorofsky, an environmental engineering junior at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, received a grant from Northwestern and the Circumnavigators Club of Chicago to travel around the world this summer and examine sustainable development in both developed and developing countries.

For his project, titled, “Defining Sustainable Development: Global Applications of Sustainable Development and the Effect on Community,” Shorofsky will travel to Ecuador, Ghana, England, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia.

“I’m excited to see how developing countries differ from developed countries when it comes to sustainable development,” he said. “I want to see what impact it has on residents around the world.”

In Ecuador, he will visit the Yanapuma Organization, a grass roots sustainable development NGO currently working with the Tsa’chilla people to build an organic cacao farm. In Ghana, he will analyze the technology used by the Perpetual Prosperity Pump Foundation to build irrigation pumps. In England, he will visit the zero-fossil-fuel community Bedzed, and in Denmark, he will visit Samso, where community residents funded a project to convert the entire island to using renewable energy. While traveling in the United Arab Emirates, Shorofsky hopes to interview engineers about a clean technology center in Masdar City, and in Indonesia, he will study the Indonesian Development of Education and Permaculture Foundation, which focuses on small scale community solutions and poverty reduction.

“For me it’s about getting experience working with a variety of people in many different settings,” he said. “With sustainable development, it’s important to know the people you’re serving. I’ve always felt like I needed to get out and see what these projects are doing before I could work on my own project.”

The grant, funded jointly between Northwestern University and the Circumnavigators Club Foundation, awards one fellowship worth up to $9,000 for an around-the-world travel research project over the three-month period between a student’s junior and senior year. The 2010 winner Meixi Ng visited schools that are focusing on transformative education in marginalized communities, while 2009 winner Sam McAleese studied conservation efforts in national parks around the world.

Shorofsky has gotten travel advice from club members as well as from previous winners and says the organizations he plans to visit have helped arrange transportation, as well. When he returns, Shorofsky must write a 50-page report on his findings, which he hopes to use for his senior thesis. Though he does not yet know what he plans to do after graduation, Shorofsky says the trip will provide invaluable experience he could not get at home.

“Sustainable development is definitely a field I’m interested in, and I hope this trip helps me better understand how it works,” he said.