Mike Anderson believes strongly in the concept of Uomo Universale, Italian for “Universal Man,” more commonly known as the “Renaissance man,” a well-rounded individual with broad skills and knowledge.
“The scientist and artist can be the same individual. I don’t buy into the thinking that there’s no time to focus on anything beyond your specialty,” says Mike, who practices what he preaches. A retired HSU professor of Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE), Mike is also an award-winning bird photographer.
His love of learning and HSU’s ERE program are the catalysts behind Mike’s recent generous donations to support ERE students: a $25,000 gift to establish the Mike Anderson ERE Speakers Fund and another $15,000 in discretionary funding directly to the ERE department.
“When I first arrived at HSU, I attended a presentation in another department titled 'The Impact of Christianity on Western Man’s View of the Environment,' and I was struck not only by how very interesting and informative it was, but also by how useful knowledge like this might be in practical environmental engineering design,” says Mike. “I came away thinking that it would be so valuable to have speakers outside of engineering present to ERE students and faculty."
Soon after, with the department's support, he initiated a speaker's series that included topics such as "Desertification in Africa" by a geographer and "California Water Law" by an environmental lawyer. Mike hopes future HSU students will be just as inspired by speakers as he was to keep learning about, well, everything. It is to this end that he established the new ERE speaker's fund.
Eileen Cashman, ERE professor and department chair, is excited to see Mike’s vision come to life. “He wants to bring in speakers to discuss everything from ethics and regulation, policy, artists, philosophers—topics that can and will be relevant to engineering in some way. It provides students an opportunity to understand what happens out in the working world and to network outside of the department,” she says.
A portion of Mike’s discretionary funding currently provides additional support for the Jeffrey S. Navarro Mentorship Program. Under the program, created by Rene Navarro and Peggy Bryer in memory of the late alumnus Jeffrey Navarro (‘14, Environmental Resources Engineering), current ERE student mentors help their peers navigate academics, as well as develop practical skills. Thanks to Mike’s funding, the department was able to hire three mentors this semester, one of whom is Malia Seeley.
“When I was a second year ERE student participating as a mentee in the Navarro program, my mentor talked to me about his experiences in ERE and the projects he worked on,” says Malia. “He helped reinforce my decision that I was in the right program.”
Malia is now a mentor, helping others students to thrive. “In the mentorship program,” says Malia, ”We have study sessions where students learn how to work with others. I enjoy sharing my experiences with them and learning from my fellow mentors.”
Looking ahead, Cashman says funds will also help the department purchase and send lab materials to students in virtual lab courses next spring.
This spirit of camaraderie and generosity is a hallmark of the ERE department, which Mike and others built into one of the largest and most respected environmental engineering programs in the country.
Mike takes pride in the students he taught in nearly four decades as a professor at HSU.
“ERE students are passionate about the environment," says Mike. "They are also highly motivated and very hard workers, and they tend to self-select for positive cooperation and mutual support rather than negative competition."