When Villanova Engineering faculty were asked to identify students who fit the description of “changemakers,” more than one of them named Mark Orebiyi ’17 CE, ’19 MSWREE. A student in the EU-Nova dual-degree program, Orebiyi earned bachelor’s degrees in Applied Mathematics and Civil Engineering from Eastern University and Villanova University, respectively. He recently started Villanova’s graduate program in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering. In addition to his academic pursuits, Orebiyi has been involved in everything from public relations for the African Caribbean Villanova group to serving as historian for the College’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Where Orebiyi probably has made his greatest impact, however, is in his work with youth.
After four summers working with children at a church day camp during high school, Orebiyi brought his enthusiasm to the College of Engineering, where he volunteered with STEM outreach programs. He worked with VESTED—Villanova Engineering, Science and Technology Enrichment and Development—which introduces technical fields to students in under-resourced communities and encourages them to consider STEM careers. His experience with VESTED led to two summers with the College’s weeklong NovaEDGE Diversity in Engineering camp where he proved to be a popular resident assistant and advisor for the high-school-aged participants. Orebiyi’s interest in working with youth even prompted him to take a teaching course at Villanova. He calls it “an itch I needed to scratch.”
In May 2017, Orebiyi’s commitment to STEM outreach earned him a position on the executive board of Region 2 of the National Society of Black Engineers. As precollege initiative chair, he develops innovative workshops and activities that college chapters from South Carolina to Pennsylvania can implement to stimulate the interest of black youth in the fields of engineering, science and technology.
International development is another area in which Orebiyi sees an opportunity to make a difference. Inspired by Assistant Professor Virginia Smith, PhD, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her husband Bryan Enslein ’07 CE, an adjunct faculty member in the department, Orebiyi has decided to focus his master’s thesis on STEM outreach and international development in the field of water resources. Dr. Smith, with whom he conducted undergraduate research, will be his graduate program advisor. Orebiyi says, “I tried a lot of different things to find out what it is I want to do; these topics really sparked my interest.” This past summer Orebiyi took that spark to Cambodia where he developed and presented an experiment for the country’s new STEM workbook compiled by Villanova engineering students and approved by the Ministry of Education.
When asked what advice he’d share with other would-be changemakers, Orebiyi says, “Persevere with your ideas. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” He also recommends “wandering” to find your passion, noting, “You’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do.”