Teigan Gulliver: Going global

Teigan Gulliver (CivE ’08) declared her major in civil engineering her junior year. Yet, she didn’t know what she wanted to do after graduation. “I had no idea,” she said. “I don’t think I ever actually thought about it.”

But she was excited about the idea of travel. It was during her stint as an undergraduate research assistant for the Storm Water Assessment Project at the University’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory that a colleague suggested she get involved in foreign projects through Engineers Without Borders. She joined the group and soon traveled to Uganda.

For six weeks, she helped design and build a roof catchment system to provide drinking water at a rural school. In Uganda she met Peace Corps volunteers. “They talked about their service,” Gulliver said. “It sounded like a lot of fun.” After she returned to the United States, “I just applied.” Her acceptance and assignment came through after graduation, as she was hiking the Appalachian Trail. She quit hiking and headed to Peru.

Gulliver took three months of intensive training to learn about the local culture and fortify her high school Spanish. She also studied some proven solutions to rural civil engineering challenges. “So for water and sanitation, we learned about all different kinds of latrines, biodigesters, things like that,” she said.

She was sent to a small town near Ica on the Pan-American Highway, in the rain shadow of the mountains. “It’s so dry there, even cactuses die,” Gulliver said.

She stayed with a host family that included three sons roughly her age. The mother was a local politician who knew lots of people in town. “It was definitely a big help,” she added.

Among her projects were a solar-powered pump for a school and a latrine of composting toilets for a rural community of about 20 homes. It was hardly an off-the-shelf project. “We were out there mixing mortar,” Gulliver said. “There was a lot of hands-on experience.”

Her experience in Peru taught her fluency in Spanish and gave her a chance to accomplish field projects. Gulliver returned to the United States in 2011, and now works for an engineering consulting firm in Colorado, designing and planning community water and wastewater treatment plants.

As Gulliver was weighing the possibility of working abroad, her mother gave her some good advice. “She said two things,” Gulliver said. “First of all, don’t ever let fear be the reason for you to decide not to do something. You’ll regret it the rest of your life if you don’t try it because you’re afraid. The second thing is you shouldn’t feel rushed or in a hurry to start working because you’ll have the rest of your life to work.”