A Sense of Wanderlust and Social Responsibility Is the Catalyst for a Journey to the South Pacific

Post-Grad Plans for New Stevens Alumna Includes a Teaching Post in Micronesia

6/11/2014

Laura Josephson ’14 exudes a palpable energy and zest for life, a life so full that it’s difficult to keep track of the many diverse interests and passions that motivate and drive this newly-minted Stevens alumna. Self-confident and brimming with worldly intelligence, Josephson has channeled her energy and interests into a far-reaching, global Stevens experience.

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, and raised a few towns over in Ipswich, Josephson has collected more global adventures and experiences in her young life than most people encounter in a lifetime. She credits her parents for instilling in her and her two siblings an insatiable curiosity to learn more about the world and a desire to make an impact in far-flung places that few Americans visit.

As a Stevens undergrad, Josephson spent the fall 2012 semester in Spain, studying oceanography, global health and sociology. She also counts among her many overseas excursions a month-long trip to El Azúcar, Ecuador, a village on the Santa Elena peninsula on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, where she conducted field research for her Senior Design Project—a solar-power system for distributing agricultural water in communities that have poor or no water treatment systems. She was sick for most of her time in El Azúcar, but managed to carry through with her objectives with characteristic aplomb, bringing back to Stevens and her project teammates valuable insights from her time in the Ecuadorean village.

Josephson, along with her Stevens teammates, presented their Senior Design Project—iAgua—at this year’s Innovation Expo as their entry for the Project Plan Pitch competition. Although they failed to win the top prize, they received the loudest applause and won Audience Favorite, in large part due to Josephson’s impressive presentation in front of her peers and a distinguished panel of judges. For those who know Josephson, her ability to win over an audience came as no surprise considering her acting talent and theater background.

Last month’s graduation from Stevens marked a turning point in Josephson’s life. She’s considering going to graduate school to study public or international health. But that will have to wait until she returns from her next global adventure. Josephson will be hopping on a plane in August (several planes most likely) to reach her next destination—Micronesia—where she will be living and working for 10 months. Having secured a teaching position in Chuuk, she will be teaching chemistry and math at Xavier High School, a Catholic high school enrolling 170 students in grades nine through 12.

Along with her teaching duties, Josephson is looking to put her engineering education to use in Micronesia, where there is a great demand for someone with her skills, and she is willing to do whatever she can to help improve the quality of life in that community.

“There's a lot of potential to do good there, and I can't wait to get involved,” she said excitedly.

There were a lot of contributing factors that led her to Micronesia, as Josephson tells it, starting back to her semester abroad in Madrid, where she took a class called “Introduction to Global Health.”

“The class was incredible, and when I returned to Stevens, I wanted to continue learning about the healthcare field.”

So she turned to Dr. Donald Lombardi for advice on earning a graduate certificate in Healthcare Leadership and Management, a program geared toward people with experience in the healthcare field.

“Dr. Lombardi and I met to discuss my experience. We talked about my experience in Ecuador and my interest in the field, and Dr. Lombardi signed me into a class for the fall semester,” she recounted.

Josephson describes Dr. Lombardi's class as one of the best she has taken at Stevens. Dr. Lombardi, who has since become Josephson’s mentor and biggest advocate, played an instrumental role in the opportunity for Josephson to go to Micronesia.

“A few years ago, Dr. Lombardi worked in the Marshall Islands, and while he was there met the director of Xavier. Knowing my interest in working in developing nations and my experience, Dr. Lombardi put me in contact with the director of the school, and the rest is history!”

As for Dr. Lombardi, there is no doubt in his mind that Josephson will make an excellent ambassador not only of Stevens, but of America.

"Laura has a peerless triad of practical innovativeness, great leadership instincts, and unquestioned integrity which she will now bring to Micronesia.”

Dr. Lombardi hopes that this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for Josephson will ultimately pave the way for building a pipeline in which other Stevens stars can travel to Micronesia and “make a difference with some terrific kids in the South Pacific.”

Josephson, who spent five years at Stevens and participated in the university’s cooperative education program, graduated this past May with a bachelor's in environmental engineering, as well as a graduate certificate in Healthcare Leadership and Management.

As she gets ready to embark on the next phase of her life, Josephson feels grateful to the people who have helped her along the way.

“Every step that I have taken over the past few years has led me closer to this experience, and I am incredibly fortunate to have a school, advisor and wonderful family who support me and have helped to guide me to this point.“

Although she will be on the other side of the world, Josephson plans to stay actively engaged with her alma mater, promising to provide the Stevens community with updates of her stay in Micronesia. So look for her story in the coming months.