When Nien-Yin Chang, professor at the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering, was asked why he entered his field, the answer came quickly and easily.
"You're always involved with designing solutions – you don't just talk about it," he said. "You produce things, you produce good, to benefit the people, to benefit society."
For 35 years at the College of Engineering, Chang has pursued solutions to problems in the area of geotechnical engineering – educating students and conducting research that leads to insights on soil and rock behavior, and buildings that better withstand earthquakes.
More recently as interim dean, he also has been making the case for the increased private support the college will need to launch a new department in sustainable construction engineering and management, and improve the college's national reputation.
And on the fundraising front, he's not just talking about it.
With a $30,000 gift, Chang has established an endowment that will, in perpetuity, pay an annual faculty award for outstanding research.
"Research was an area within the college where support seemed to be lacking," he said. "If we're going to reach the next level, we need to encourage faculty to better themselves."
By spurring more and better ideas, gifts to support faculty research may have the added benefit of generating federal grants that enhance the college. Chang hopes his gift, too, can have a multiplier effect by encouraging more people to consider donating to the college.
"These are difficult economic times, and there are a lot of challenges," Chang said. "But engineering is an economic driver. We must do our best to promote it."