• Volume 18 Number 2
    Spring 2009


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Barry Gutwein, BS ’80, MS ’85
 Neuwied, Germany  •  Profiled: Winter ’06

Project engineer

Barry Gutwein completed his African assignments with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in 2007.

In some of the poorest places on the planet, Gutwein used his ag engineering degree to help dig new wells and fix old ones. He chlorinated murky drinking water that brought hope and life to villages that had way too little of both.

He helped distribute medical supplies, some by helicopter and some by boats that were little more than bundles of sticks strapped to steel drums. He built a hospital operating room out of mud. He assisted doctors who lost more patients in a week under those primitive conditions than they had in their entire careers.

And he’s still involved with African relief efforts.

“In March of 2007 I went to work for a German non-government organization called Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action) as the head of projects for their activities in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he reports.

His recent work has been similar to his Doctors Without Borders responsibilities in Angola, helping people in the Congo recover from civil wars by teaching them agricultural techniques, helping rebuild infrastructure and reducing conflict between villages.

Gutwein now is on family leave (the youngest of his two daughters was born last August) until August, when he expects to return to a one-year assignment in east Africa or south Asia in a location deemed suitable for raising a family.

“I am also looking at other possibilities with U.S. and international entities such as foundations, aid agencies and development banks.”

And while he admits there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the faces of people in a village where flowing water again runs from a fixed pump, he hopes to effect change on a more universal level.

“I would like to move into a position where I might be able to influence policy. My university degrees were undoubtedly important factors for many of the jobs that I have been offered. But since I am currently looking for new opportunities, I hope that Purdue’s reputation will still be a factor in the broader international job market.”

The voice of experience: I suggest that students consider the study of agriculture an opportunity for expanding rather than narrowing their perspective, part of a broad and solid liberal education. Take an extra year. Spend a semester and/or intern abroad. Learn at least one foreign language. Try to see how the rest of the world lives.  —  Barry Gutwein