Sustaining Success

Imagine how an idea, that thus far has allowed 100,000 people in Nicaragua to live a better and more sustainable life, arose from four college students drinking Keystone Light on their porch off Lincoln Way. That’s exactly how Wes Meier (’08 mech engr), Greg McGrath (’08 mech engr), Chris Deal (’08 mech engr), and Lee Beck (’09 food sci & hort) paved the way for the people of Nicaragua to improve both their lifestyles and their environment.

The YAC was able to catch up with two key members of what is today known as Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability International: co-founder/director McGrath, a former Iowa STATEment Makers honoree, and director of development Rachel Geilenfeld (’07 pol sci).


What is Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability International (EOS)?
It’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit made to provide underserved communities with access to low-cost appropriate technologies that generate income and improve health. EOS International will accomplish this by implementing our core technologies, promoting and teaching these technologies to both development organizations and rural villages how to implement them, and developing technology kits to distribute as a way to extend our impact to other areas where we are not currently working.

Translation: Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for the day; teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for life.

Why Nicaragua?
Co-founder Wes Meier was stationed there during his Peace Corps tour and empathized with the Nicaraguan people living in the second poorest country in the world. With 3 million people, comprised mostly of farming communities, Nicaragua struggles to get out of poverty because of the lack of technology and resources available.

What technologies are you implementing and how do you choose them?
We didn’t create any of the technologies, but through Wes’ Peace Corps tour of Nicaragua we were able to identify the key needs of the local communities and utilized the resources available to them. A major purpose of our technologies is to lift our customers out of poverty, so we came up with three initial designs: drip irrigation, barrel ovens, and biodigesters that take manure and turn it into methane gas for cooking.

We also look to other partners like Compatible Technology International, based in St. Paul, that designed a water coronation system and are using EOS to promote their design.

How are you evolving and expanding at such a fantastic rate?
Leveraging our networks and contacts both here in the States and with the Nicaraguan government have been a key to our success. Also, through understanding our own systems via user feedback, we were able to transform our irrigation system that previously took two and a half days and $70 to install to under an hour and less than $10 to install.

Strong beliefs and initial financial support from friends, family, volunteers, and the Iowa State community have made this project possible. Also, the core group of volunteers that are working nights and weekends a few times a month are integral to making this program exist and continue to expand.

How do you measure success?
By visiting with people about the impact in the community and hearing their stories. This year we will be doing follow-up visits to the communities where the technologies have been installed to see the positive results firsthand. Due to lack of funding at the moment, it’s been a challenge to do that. But we are encouraged by some of the success stories.

What’s one major highlight or story?
We have around 100,000 people using these technologies currently in Nicaragua, and it’s continuing to grow.  So we know what we are doing is working, and now it’s just improving upon that.

How can other ISU young alumni get involved in EOS?
Contact EOS directly through our website,, to learn more about opportunities to get involved.

About this story | Interview by Scott Hagen (’06 architecture), Young Alumni Council volunteer. Originally published in Young Alumni News Feb. 20, 2013.

A different kind of hill to climb

VISIONS magazine readers may remember a story back in summer 2006 about a young alum from Oelwein, Iowa, who bicycled 4,000 miles across the United States to raise money for cancer. That young man, Tyler Weig (’05 community health education), now 30, was in the news again in January for another extraordinary feat: donating a healthy kidney to a stranger.


Weig’s humanitarian act set off a chain of transplants at Des Moines’ Mercy Medical Center. A headline in the Jan. 12 Des Moines Register proclaimed “Five people get transplants thanks to one man’s desire to help others.” VISIONS spoke with Weig a week after the surgery:

What made you decide to donate a kidney to a stranger?
There are nearly 95,000 people in America, and more than 500 in Iowa, that are currently waiting for a new kidney and, ultimately, the new lease on life that a healthy kidney would bring to them.  The more I learned about organ donation, specifically living kidney donation, the more I wanted to become involved.

What was the process like?
I worked with the Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa.  All potential donors are required to meet with a variety of medical personnel and complete a variety of physical and psychological tests.  The surgery lasted 3-4 hours and I was in the hospital for 3 nights.  Overall, I found the experience to be medically professional and personally rewarding.

How do you feel now?
I feel better each and every day.  I’m going to take some time to make sure I recover completely and then I’ll get back to living the same active lifestyle I enjoyed prior to surgery.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering donating an organ while they’re still living?
Knowledge is power. If someone is considering becoming a living donor, they should make sure they have their questions answered by trained medical professionals. Beyond that, I would advise them to look into their heart and see the possibility that they, themselves, possess to save another person’s life.

The world is full of wonderfully miraculous opportunities to join together to create something greater than ourselves.  I’m so lucky to be just one part of the tremendous team of doctors, nurses, social workers, hospital staff, family, friends, caregivers, media, strangers, donors, recipients, supporters, etc.etc. etc. that made last week’s kidney donation chain a reality.  I’m in awe of the amount of support that I have received and I’ll do my best to show others the same love and support as they pursue all of their dreams.

About this story | Interview by Carole Gieseke, editor, VISIONS magazine. Originally published in Young Alumni News Feb. 20, 2013.

Alumni Spotlight: Time to Get to Know…Yourself

Imagine you’re in the middle of a job interview and you get asked: What is your biggest strength?

“I’m highly organized…”
“My attention to detail…”
“….multi tasker…”
“I’m a people person…”
“…innovative and think outside the box…”

Maybe one of the above is your go-to answer to that question. Maybe it’s something else. But is it really your greatest strength? Spend some time confirming your strengths (and perhaps discover some new ones)!

This article by Nadia Goodman on gives advice on how to pay attention to your strengths. There are also several books (StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath as an example) if you’re interested in delving deeper into this subject.

Mirror, Mirror…

mirrorIf you think you’re ready for a career change and need to talk to someone more qualified than a magic mirror, the ISU Alumni Association knows just the person for you! Susan Clark, Certified Career Management Coach, can provide an in-depth consultation in the areas of conducting a successful job search, understanding what career choices are best suited for you, preparing for a job interview, and more.

Contact Susan at or (515) 460-5054. You can also visit her LinkedIn page at