UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Many in science, technology and innovation want to channel their passion and education to improve the human condition, especially for the most vulnerable. They also want to earn enough to do it full time and be financially stable. How can they do both?
A new publication by Khanjan Mehta, director of the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) Program at Penn State, helps STEM students and professionals make informed career decisions by illuminating the diversity of career pathways in social innovation and global sustainable development.
Mehta spent more than three years interacting with hundreds of innovators working on a wide range of development challenges across diverse sectors and organizations in the U.S. and around the world. "I realized that STEM professionals can be found across all kinds of impact-focused organizations and units, and every single innovator has a unique path to arrive where they are now," he explained.
The book, titled "Solving Problems That Matter (and Getting Paid for It)," includes 54 expert briefs penned by leaders from USAID, Peace Corps, MIT, Engineers Without Borders, AAAS and other organizations. In addition, 100 STEM innovators from the World Bank, UNICEF, White House, Gates Foundation, Google and dozens of social ventures, government agencies, nonprofits, academia and corporations share their enlightening and inspiring profiles, including their current roles and responsibilities, career trajectories and lessons learned along the way.
The book examines the pros and cons of graduate degrees such as a PhD, MBA, MPH, and MPA as well as professional development programs such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and Fulbright Scholarships. A section on professional competencies provides actionable insights into how readers can prepare for impact-focused careers by becoming better storytellers, proposal writers and cross-cultural communicators.
After a series of articles on how to break into and be successful in the social impact space, the book wraps up with a section that encourages readers to think through compensation, career advancement and the personal implications of their career choices.
"This book assembles more valuable insight and advice on social impact STEM careers than one could hope for in a lifetime. It hastens the day when such careers are no longer considered nontraditional, which is especially important for today's students," said Alexander J. Moseson, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at USAID.
Mehta said he wrote the book with three specific goals: (1) to educate students, parents, faculty and career counselors about career pathways and strategies in social innovation and sustainable development; (2) to elucidate the variety of exciting career opportunities available to students and young professionals who have engaged in intensive and immersive engaged scholarship and sustainable development programs; and (3) to help recruit and retain women and underrepresented groups into STEM fields.
"Echoing the objectives of the NAE report "Changing the Conversation," this book develops new language to explain what engineers do. It is a must-read for engineers who want to make a difference," said Peter Butler, associate dean for education in the College of Engineering and a contributor to the book.
"HESE students, just like many Millennials, are not as excited about well-paying but arguably monotonous jobs designing a widget in a cubicle or becoming another cog in the corporate wheel. They want to pursue careers where they can directly and tangibly see the human impact of their work. They want to solve big problems facing the world. They are driven by purpose, passion and impact," Mehta said.
"This book provides them with a compelling starting point to find themselves, explore different platforms and career strategies and get a head start in their own journey to improve the human condition."