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2018 Scholarship Awards

At the fall conference this November, the Nebraska AWWA scholarship committee had the privilege of awarding over $7,000 in scholarships! We would like to tell you a little more about it.

One AWWA Operator Scholarships

Two One AWWA Operator Scholarships were awarded by the Nebraska Section, to Mathias Wendeln of the Beatrice Board of Public Works and to Travis Hays of David City.

The Nebraska Section American Water Works Association became a partner in the national AWWA's operator scholarship program (part of The Water Equation Campaign) in 2016. The program matches a Section's scholarship contributions, dollar for dollar, for the creation of this new scholarship. Two $1,000 scholarships are available each year. We awarded our first scholarship under the program last year.

Scholarship awards can be used for certification or licensure, two- or four-year water-related degrees, technical school programs, professional training programs, books and manuals, and operator-related conferences. In addition, each scholarship recipient also receives a one-year AWWA Operator membership! Funds will be distributed via reimbursement.

This year, the scholarship committee received two applications, both of which were awarded. Here is a little bit more about each of the recipients.

Mathias Wendeln was born in Syracuse, Nebraska. Mathias grew up on a farm in rural Syracuse before graduating from Syracuse High School. Mathias attended Peru State College and obtained his BS in history education. He completed his student teaching at Southern High School. After college, Mathias settled in Beatrice and attempted to secure a full-time teaching position. Mathias spent several years substitute teaching and applying to high schools throughout the state. Mathias eventually became the youth sports coordinator at the YMCA. He has had an array of work experience ranging from construction to working with delinquent youth as a tracker. Mathias was hired with the City of Beatrice water department in March of 2016.

Mathias married Sharla in 2010, and they have a four-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son. When not spending time with his family, Mathias enjoys archery hunting, working out, and playing softball. Mathias is a Cleveland Indians fan and enjoys attending games. He intends to use this scholarship to continue his education of water systems and to further his career as a water operator.

Travis Hays started working for the City of David City on March 24, 2014 as a Water/Sewer Operator. Travis attended Dorchester High School in Dorchester, Nebraska, and then attended Southeast Community College, Milford Campus, and received an Associate's Degree of Applied Science. He worked for Norland International Inc., Assembly & Testing in Lincoln, Nebraska, and for RVW Inc. Electric Engineering, as an electrical systems drafting tech before accepting a job with the City of David City.

Travis has successfully completed the Wastewater Operator Certification Program of the State of Nebraska and is certified as a Class 1 WW Operator, and as a Class II and VI Water Operator. In April 2018, he was appointed as the Water/Wastewater Supervisor for the City of David City. Travis is married to his wife Leah, and they have two small daughters. In his spare time Travis enjoys cars and motorcycles; hunting (archery) and fishing, and enjoys spending time with his family.

We are honored to assist both Travis and Matthias, and would encourage you to inform other water operators who are wanting to participate in this scholarship. There are two $1,000 scholarships available each year. Additional information, including the scholarship application, can be found at http://awwaneb.org/committees/scholarship.

Liesen Scholarship

The second scholarship to be awarded was the Colonel Theodore A. Liesen scholarship. The Nebraska Section American Water Works Association established the Colonel Theodore A. Liesen Memorial and Training Endowment Fund in 1993 to encourage water industry professionals to obtain additional training and encourage graduate and undergraduate students to choose the water industry as their field of work.

Colonel Theodore Alfred Liesen was one of the incorporators of AWWA and served as president from 1917-1918. He also chaired several national committees on public health and pollution. Liesen was named general manager of the Metropolitan Utilities District in Omaha in 1923 at the age of 59. He announced his retirement July 19, 1939, at age 74. Liesen returned to Detroit and died in 1944. In 1993, AWWA inducted him into the AWWA National Hall of Fame.

The Scholarship Committee received 14 applications this year and awarded four scholarships of $1,000 each to the following individuals:

Christopher Bianchini currently attends the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering with an anticipated graduation date of Fall 2019. His hometown is Omaha. Christopher is a member of WEF and participates as the Public Relations Chair of the student chapter. He is currently working with Dr. Chung Song as a research assistant and as part of the Nebraska Industrial Assessment Center.

An excerpt from his application states:

"I hope I can apply my knowledge to more forward thinking, sustainable alternatives like the phosphate replacing enzymes researched as part of a recent manufacturing review, and do my best to put my knowledge towards sustaining the environment and water supply."

Carlos Felix currently attends the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering with an anticipated graduation date of May 2021. Carlos is from Scottsbluff, NE. While at UNL, he has been active in ASCE and other volunteer activities. He is currently a math and chemistry tutor as part of the William H. Thompson Study Cafe.

An excerpt from the application states:

"I recently visited a tiny village in Mexico, where my family came from, and across the road from the home my mother grew up in was an aged water tower. It was rusted and had become very dirty over the years. My mother then explained to me that the residents of this village, and many other villages like it suffer health problems because of the aged infrastructure. Therefore, one of my career objectives is to eliminate this problem. I want to find other communities like this that need clean water and help them in any way I can."

Andrew Pham is currently attending University of Nebraska - Lincoln and is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering, with an anticipated graduation date of May 2021. His hometown is Lincoln, Nebraska. Andrew is a member of AWWA/WEF student chapter where he serves as the treasurer, and volunteers with the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement.

An excerpt from the application states:

"Clean water is a priority for every person, and the responsibility of meeting that demand falls onto the shoulders of competent engineers all around the globe. I hear more and more about the water problems around the globe -- wetland depletion, water shortages, and millions of deaths from water-borne diseases. These are all disheartening facts, but even more than that, they are motivating. I am an optimistic civil engineering student. I have confidence and trust in the current professionals in the water field, in my peers, and in myself to tenaciously work towards a solution to these great challenges."

Matt Thompson is currently attending the University of Nebraska - Lincoln pursuing a PhD in Civil Engineering, with a projected graduation of Spring 2021. Matt as the AWWA/NWEA student chapter president (since 2016), among other positions. He is a member of the UNL & Civil Engineering Graduate Student Assembly and Civil Engineering Leadership Council, and worked to develop the AWWA/WEF mentoring program (in its 1st year), and other activities

Some excerpts from the application state:

"Water is one of our most vital resources for sustaining life and it is crucial that humanity continues its efforts in preserving, restoring and supplying it to the world. This task is not simple, and we face various challenges in reaching our goals. The American Society of Civil Engineers reported that America's water/wastewater infrastructure is at a grade D. we have the capacity to do better and we owe it to our country to do so. The water industry has challenging and everlasting road ahead. I am committed to being a steady driving force for positive change within this industry. With greater public awareness and engagement, I believe our country can tackle these challenges and build up our infrastructure from a grade D to a grade A."

Poster Competition

The third scholarship to be awarded was a student poster competition. The prize included $1,000 in reimbursement assistance to present the poster at the national AWWA-ACE conference in 2019. There were three poster presentations by university students. The winner of this year's poster competition was Matthew Thompson of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, with a poster titled "Evaluation opportunities and barriers to energy efficiency (E2) at small Nebraska wastewater treatment plants". We look forward to hearing about his upcoming experience.


I would like to thank committee members Chip Haas, Rod Kirkland, Mike Koenig for their support and assistance this year.