During his senior year, David Dwight, a 2015 graduate of the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, led student actions protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Today, he continues his activism by serving as an intern for the Ferguson Commission, the governor-appointed group of 16 community leaders charged with investigating ways to address the region’s gaping disparities. He joins Washington University students Heidi Chiu and Zachary Panter, both of whom will be seniors in Arts & Sciences this fall.
The students have attended meetings, collected research, interviewed residents and currently are assisting the commission to write its report outlining its recommendations to improve education, municipal courts and governments, economic opportunities and the relationship between residents and law enforcement.
Washington University provided the Ferguson Commission with the interns as well as office space on North Campus. That’s where the students met to discuss their experiences serving the commission and how it will affect their futures.
David Dwight, Class of 2015
Degree: Biomedical engineering
Hometown: New Hope, Pa.
On the research: It has been amazing for us to immerse ourselves in all of this research and synthesize it. But a lot of this research and data has existed before. It came up before in St. Louis and in Los Angeles after the Rodney King riots and, before that, in 1965 with the McCone Commission. That’s why the next step — the implementation — is so important. We shouldn’t be having this exact conversation again in 15 years.
On joining the establishment: Was I concerned? Yes. As an activist, you should be questioning authority to make sure it’s following through on its principles. But once I came onto staff, that first week — if not the first day — I was confident in the staff and the commission’s commitment to make sure its ideas are implemented through community partnerships.
On employing his engineering skills: The analytical skills that I developed in the engineering school really helped me here. Engineering is going through a paradigm shift in terms of not only valuing technical knowledge, but also realizing that in today’s globalized world, engineers have an opportunity to impact society and see the human component.