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Sarah Bates ’09: How MSS service learning impacts me today as an engineer

October 29, 2017 | Abby Liu

MSS Alumni Profile Picture for web

What does a kindergarten service project to collect baby food for needy babies have to do with water scarcity in India?

Everything, as it turns out. Sarah Bates ’09 draws a direct line from her MSS service experiences to the work that she does today: making cities and communities more resilient to climate change.

As an engineering student at Villanova University, Sarah sought out opportunities to serve as a way to enrich her education. Increase personal ownership of the problems she was solving. Not to mention make the world a better place in which to live!

Throughout her college years, Sarah worked with an NGO that implements projects in rural India. For her senior project, she traveled across the world to a small town called Prashanthagiri. She partnered with community leaders to explore drought mitigation strategies. 
Together, they studied possible solutions: groundwater recharge, rainwater harvesting, and borewells. She hopes to continue to facilitate data collection and propose a design solution.

India 3


with map and villagers

Today Sarah designs Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) as part of Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters initiative. Her team utilizes green infrastructure such as rain gardens and tree trenches to reduce the stress placed on traditional stormwater infrastructure. This reduces flooding. Improves water quality. And adds greenery which also has a positive impact on the health and social capital of the community.

Foremost in Sarah’s mind: how her work can improve the lives of others. To that end, she continues to study, working on a master’s degree in Water Resource Engineering.

She’s particularly concerned about extreme weather events that can lead to an excess or shortage of water. She’s seen how such events can devastate communities, especially those that struggle with poverty. As a water resources engineer, she plans to devote her career to designing water-related infrastructure that will lessen the impact of extreme weather.

hard hat photo

And her desire to help others extends to Mustard Seed students. Even though she’s a recent college graduate, Sarah prioritizes giving to Mustard Seed’s financial aid fund.

She says, “As a woman in engineering, I’m thankful for the opportunities that I’ve been given and recognize that doors have been opened as a result of my education. All children have the right to the education that I had, regardless of their socioeconomic status. I support and admire Mustard Seed’s mission.”


Abby Liu

Former Director of Marketing and Communications

Abby Liu was the Director of Marketing and Communications from Sept. 2018-August 2021 and was an employee of Mustard Seed School for over 14 years. She’s the parent of two Mustard Seed School alumni. She's seen the impact of a Mustard Seed education from the early preschool days all the way up to eighth grade and beyond, and thoroughly enjoys sharing the Mustard Seed School story to this day.

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