|Gregory Edward Epperly
Oregon Institute of Technology
October 19, 2020
The Responsify team is excited to announce Gregory Edward Epperly as the winner of The 2020 Empowering Others Scholarship for $1,000. Gregory attends The Oregon Institute of Technology majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Applicants had to explore empowerment, reflecting on what the word meant to them, and how their major could be used to empower others.
A basic definition of empowerment is the feeling of self-worth. Empowerment can be instilled into people by giving them the power to make their own decisions and have control of their lives, rather than relying on others. Whether it’s a family member, a co-worker, or a random stranger, providing a sense of worth empowers them. Telling a child ‘good job’ on a homework assignment, giving a co-worker credit for their work, or even just saying ‘thank you’ can instill a sense of worth in the recipient. Feeling appreciated and recognized for good deeds motivates people to continue to perform to the best of their abilities.
There are five fundamental forms of empowerment: cultural, the freedom of religion, speech, fashion and customs; political, the freedom to vote, be involved in politics and the government; national, the opportunity to be in a decision making environment; societal, taking part in community and protests; and economic, taking care of financial needs and wants. People who take an active role in their lives and surroundings can achieve empowerment. People who feel empowered are more likely to engage in the world around them. It is human nature to take care of ourselves before we help others. People who feel empowered and are able to serve their own needs are more likely to participate in solving the issues and challenges that face us as human beings such as gender and race equality, reducing crime, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, and educating our children. For those of us who are already empowered, helping others achieve that goal is critical to expanding the pool of talent available to work on the world’s challenges, and will ultimately make the world a better place.
Graduating with a mechanical engineering degree will enable me to take a role in creating improved products that can make our lives a little easier and aid others to become empowered. With several specialties to choose from, I can have a measureable impact on people’s lives. In aerospace, I could help design improved aircraft that could carry larger payloads of food, medicine and building supplies to remote regions of the world. This could help empower countless thousands of people by bringing them out of poverty and enabling them to pursue an education. As an acoustics engineer, I could be involved in designing a better hearing aid, or other devices for the hearing impaired, empowering people with hearing disabilities to enter mainstream society. Thermal engineering would allow me to improve heating and cooling systems, making them more energy efficient, cheaper, and available to more people. In automotive engineering, I could design vehicles with increased fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions, improving the environment, while enabling people to travel. Improved farm equipment could enhance crop yields, making groceries more affordable, empowering people to spend resources in other areas.
On a personal and social level, if I’m assigned as a lead engineer, I’ll be working directly with other engineers, technicians and equipment operators; using their experience and expertise to build a comprehensive team. As part of the group, they can be empowered by being included at every level of the project and by inspiring them to present ideas and recommend actions to accomplish the tasks at hand. Tasks would be delegated to individuals, and they would be allowed to complete those tasks with their own initiative and skill set. They would be encouraged to keep communication lines open to share each other’s ideas and progress. I would publically praise good work by individuals as well as the group. People who have a stake in the process tend to work harder and feel appreciated. Empowering individuals and the group as a whole produces better results.
I have felt empowered for most of my life. I grew up on a farm, and after my Dad got sick, it was up to me to ensure everything got done. The daily decisions became mine at a young age; choosing which fences to fix, determining if the stock needed care, deciding when to harvest and how long it would take. These experiences made me grow up faster than my peers and made me stronger. I saw the results of the decisions I made, giving me confidence and a feeling of self-worth.
During my 20-year Army career, I learned a lot about empowerment by learning skills to become a contributing member of a team. My confidence grew, which lead to increased skills and further opportunities to grow and to train others. Training and mentoring soldiers to their maximum potential showed me the benefits of helping others. My personal development in leadership and decision making gave me extensive experience in managing people, projects and facilities. I empowered my soldiers by training and mentoring them to complete any mission. Giving them the responsibility to determine how to accomplish smaller tasks instilled in them the confidence to overcome difficult situations. Seeing their growth and achievement also strengthened my own belief in my abilities.
I have used many of those skills regularly though out my civilian career as well. As a calibration laboratory and quality manager for 5 years, training new employees, maintaining records and ensuring work standards were met was a part of my daily job. My current position as lead research and development technician empowers me as I train and mentor new employees. This empowers the other employees by making them more skilled at their jobs. Additionally, my job includes developing test plans, providing data and analysis for reports and I providing advice to management on projects within our group. These tasks empower me as I feel a part of the process of research and development rather than just going through the motions of repeatedly testing materials.
Feeling empowered has given me the confidence and ability to be in control of my life. Witnessing the empowerment I have helped instill in others gives me a feeling of accomplishment and further re-enforces my own feeling of self-worth.