Multicultural Faculty Interview
Eleazer P. Resurrección: A Filipino Engineer at MSUN
By Cristina Estrada-Underwood
Dr. Eleazer P. Resurección joined MSU-N faculty in August 2014. He is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Technology (CET). He has a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, and has earned a Masters and a PhD in Civil Engineering (Environmental Engineering focus). Eleazer is originally from the Philippines, but he received his education in the United States. Eleazer is an active member of the Diversity Committee on campus and also participates in student-related activities and events whenever his schedule allows him. In addition to his stellar academic achievement, he is truly a box of surprises. For example, not very many know that he is an accomplished singer and actor. Every immigrant in this country has a journey and story of success, so Eleazer is not the exception.
Eleazer, how did you arrive in the United States?
I was working in my country as a professional chemical engineer and as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) consultant; then, the opportunity to be employed through the Visiting International Faculty Program (VIF) arrived in my life. This is a program that employs highly-qualified professionals in math, sciences, and languages from around the world to teach their particular fields of expertise to U.S. K-12 students. I was interviewed; I passed all the examinations and in no time I was teaching science in North Carolina. In this exchange program, international teachers are expected to share their culture — they are ambassadors of their countries. In my classroom, I had a permanent display of Filipino memorabilia (i.e., money, postcards, and other artifacts). After two years, I decided to pursue a higher degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia. It was all sequential. After finishing my doctoral degree, I was visiting faculty and postdoctoral scholar at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
What are some of the cultural differences you first encountered upon your arrival to the United States?
Too many just to cite a few [he laughs]. The first striking difference is that Americans are more direct in communicating what and how they feel. Perhaps politeness is implicit, but at the same time, I was somewhat afraid to offend someone. In my country, we address everybody, most notably people of authority and power, by “M’am” or “Sir” and do not address our bosses by their first name. It is an utmost sign of disrespect.
Almost every food source in the Philippines is organic and fresh. It is less common to eat frozen or preserved food. Now that I have assimilated to the American culture, I just do it like everybody else, (well, at times). However, I am cognizant of the health effects of processed food and try to consume mostly organic fruits and vegetables. Recently, I started becoming a vegetarian or a “vegani-ish”, a habit in conformance with my concern for the environment and support of animal rights.
It is interesting because I still consider my country very diverse. We were colonized by the Spanish for over 300 years, so there many similarities between our native language, Tagalog, and Spanish. Tagalog has quite a few Spanish words. Since we were also colonized by the United States after Spain, it has a considerable influence on our education system. I think among all countries in the Western Pacific, Philippines has adopted the greatest American influence. The University of the Philippines, for example, is a public university system in the Philippines founded by the American colonial government in 1908. English is the primary medium of instruction from elementary school until higher education.
What do you like the most about the United States?
I like the plethora of opportunities the United States can offer to any individual. If one has a vision and is a hardworking and goal-oriented, one can pretty much succeed.
Why civil engineering?
Civil engineering is a vast field. The areas of study in civil engineering, among others, are structural, geotechnical (soils), construction, transportation, hydrology, and environmental, which is my area of expertise. An environmental engineer’s job is to apply concepts of physical sciences to solve environmental problems such as pollution and climate change, thereby improving the sustainability of the natural and built environment.
Why do you think the United States needs civil engineers?
Civil engineers play a pivotal role in the development of this country’s economy. Civil engineers design infrastructure, improve roadways, maintain quality of water sources, and solve problems of land, air, and water contamination.
Describe the Civil Engineering Program at MSUN.
What we offer here at MSUN is a general/broad-track curriculum covering most areas of study in civil engineering. One of the advantages of the program is that it is both theoretical and hands-on. Students are not only learning the principles and theories, but also gaining practical applications through lab work and experiments; thereby creating a more “permanent” learning experience. After the program, graduates can take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination and the Professional Engineer (PE) Examination. MSUN CET graduates have very high job marketability in sectors such as manufacturing, consulting, finance, and services.
What areas of expertise do you consider you bring to Northern and how you enrich your program?
My expertise is in the area of water and energy nexus. As a faculty in the department, I can enrich the curriculum by incorporating research into teaching — even at the bachelor’s level; there is definitely a world of possibilities.
What are your research areas of interest?
My research focuses on all aspects of sustainable water and energy systems (water-energy nexus). Water and energy are critical resources that are interdependent and intricately linked: the generation of energy requires large amounts of water while the treatment and distribution of water depends significantly on the availability of reliable and low-cost energy. Providing clean affordable water and energy is challenging due to limited natural resources, significant environmental impacts of fossil fuel use, and population growth and development. My research addresses these issues by: [a] characterizing the fate and transport of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in both natural (i.e., rivers and lakes) and engineered water systems (i.e., water and wastewater treatment facilities) and [b] advancing next-generation fuels and bio-based chemicals. I use targeted experiments with systems-level life cycle assessment (LCA), an environmental engineering accounting tool, to evaluate the sustainability of the water and energy infrastructure.
What are some words of advice you would like to give those who are considering majoring in civil engineering?
Well, they have to have strong mathematical skills, or be willing to work hard on their skills, and also have a desire to make a positive impact on their environment. The role of civil engineers is important in all facets of human endeavor. They have to have the desire to make a positive change in their community, their country, and the world.
Going back to topics related to culture and diversity, what are some words of advice you could give to those thinking about coming to study in the United States?
From my own experience, I would first recommend them to polish their communication skills (both in speaking and writing) if they are from a non-English speaking country. It is very important that they immerse themselves in the American culture before they arrive by reading books or by studying the American vernacular. If they don’t drive, they should also consider taking a driving course because public transportation in some cities and towns in the United States might not be as developed as in their countries. They also need to learn the requirements to obtain their visas, social security, driver’s license, and other important documents. Again, going back to the communication skills, obviously taking classes with English as the medium of instruction is a great idea. I would recommend for them to watch videos, and to practice, practice, and practice. One time, one friend told me “Language is culture-bound: If you want to speak French, go to France; if you want to speak American English, go the U.S.”
Is there anything else you might want to add?
Those who are interested in the program or an undergraduate/graduate student with a strong desire for research, please contact me at 406-265-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.