Daniel Crocker’s involvement with a U.Va. engineering class in Panama City, Panama, led him to reflect on his own time spent in Charlottesville.Through his position at the US Embassy in Panama, he helped coordinate events for students participating in a January term class in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The class, “The Path Across the SEAS: Panama Canal Case Study,” traveled to Panama City to study the current canal rebuilding project. Coordinating with Edward J. Berger, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Crocker organized several events for students, including a panel discussion with staffers on the public policy challenges of a massive reconstruction project.
For Crocker, his interaction with the students was a breath of fresh air. “Their intellectual curiosity brought me back to the moment in your life when so many doors are open to you,” he said. The students’ interest in combining public policy and engineering made a big impression on him. “I’m sympathetic to the idea of using engineering as a foundation, of thinking about what it can do in the world,” he said. He was happy to help a program that encourages students to think about the answers to these kinds of questions.
Talking to students also motivated a desire to take a more “active role” in supporting the University. Reflecting on the benefits he has reaped, as a foreign service officer, from his master’s in foreign policy at U.Va., he considered the challenges of current budgetary constraints for a public institution. “As a father of young children, and imagining the kind of institution I would want them to attend, I realized it was important for me to contribute to its future,” he said.