Distinguished Alumni Award

Avery L. Bang 07BA, 07BSE


Avery L. Bang, 07BA, 07BSE, one of the top 10 engineers under the age of 30 in the United States, has used her skills to help transform rural communities in underserved nations by building bridges.

Bang began her globally significant work at the University of Iowa, where she majored in civil engineering. In addition to working as an undergraduate research assistant in the hydraulics lab and as a structural engineering intern, Bang served as president of Engineers for a Sustainable World and as founding president of the UI student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. But it was on a study-abroad trip to Fiji that she had a life- and career-changing experience.

The trip inspired Bang to form a branch of the nonprofit organization Bridges to Prosperity to raise funds and then build a bridge in a remote area of Peru. She and her team spent more than two full semesters—and 500 work hours—completing the bridge that enabled residents to access healthcare, education, and jobs on the other side of a river.

After graduation, Bang earned her master's degree in geotechnical engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, conducting her graduate research with Bernard Amadei, an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Construction. In 2008, she joined Bridges to Prosperity, eventually becoming the organization's chief executive officer. Inspired by her passion and drive, the group has built 130 bridges in 14 countries; helped millions of people gain access to vital healthcare, educational, and commercial services; and grown its annual income to more than $2 million. "What Avery has created is amazing," says Ken Frantz, founder of Bridges to Prosperity. "Millions of lives changed in dramatic fashion. Millions lifted out of extreme poverty. Thousands inspired by her mentorship. Thousands educated and trained. And yet, she has just started."

Indeed, Bang not only teaches a course at the University of Colorado's Mortenson Center for Engineering, but she also helps researchers and students develop alternative-energy solutions for developing communities. She gave a presentation watched by 2,000 people at TEDx Boulder and has been a keynote speaker at dozens of other conferences and events.

Though she helps solve problems throughout the world, Bang also works to tackle issues at her alma mater as a member of the UI College of Engineering's Department of Civil Engineering advisory board and the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' young alumni advisory board.

Such activism has earned Bang a number of prestigious and highly competitive awards, including being named in 2011 as one of the American Society of Civil Engineers' New Faces of Civil Engineering, in 2012 as one of the Engineering-News Record's (ENR) Top 25 Newsmakers, and in 2013 to the ENR Mountain Region's Top 20 Under 40 list. Bang also earned the Recent Alumni Award from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and she will receive an honorary doctorate degree from Clarkson University this year.

By using her education, skills, and passion to build bridges throughout the world, Avery L. Bang is helping countless people in poor communities step into a brighter, promising future.

About Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.

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