Joseph Joubert said, “To teach is to learn twice,” and civil engineering senior Kimani Augustine has lived by that principle. From his teaching career in the Caribbean to the various tutorial programs he participates in at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, Augustine has fed his passion for math and science by sharing it with others.
At age 19, after receiving a certificate in advanced level studies from Cambridge University in England, Augustine began to teach chemistry, math and physics at an all-girls Catholic high school.
“My students were 17, not much younger than me, so it was a challenge,” Augustine said. “But I had such a passion for physics that anything I could do to keep myself in it, I would have done. If you teach something to someone else, while you’re teaching it, you are reiterating the same concept. I taught for the students but for myself as well to reinforce what I had learned, and it paid off.”
Moving to Houston in 2001 to pursue a degree in civil engineering did not change that mindset for Augustine. While attending Houston Community College, Augustine became immediately involved in a tutorial program. The program only hired sophomore level students, but because of prior contact with the coordinator of the program, Augustine was able to begin working as a freshman.
“I got involved in the international festival in Houston, and one of the women I worked with was the assistant director of student support services at HCC,” Augustine said. “They didn’t even have positions open at the time but because of my participation in the festival, she hired me anyway.”
This paved the way for Augustine to serve in the UH Challenger program as well, even though they also only hired sophomores.
“The Challenger program is a service that’s available to low-income or first-generation college students who typically wouldn’t have anyone to guide them through the college process,” Augustine said. “They have this program for counseling, advising, tutoring and a whole host of cultural events for people who don’t have anyone to really assist them and guide them.”
For a number of reasons, Augustine said his participating in the program is his greatest accomplishment since he came to the United States.
“While I was there I became the lead tutor, and it’s really fun,” Augustine said. “I always enjoyed teaching, and one day I hope to go back into teaching, at least part time. It’s gratifying when you help someone and they come back the next week with a high grade on their test or homework assignment.”
In order to accept his cooperative education job, Augustine had to suspend his time with the Challenger program. Augustine has been working at Walter P. Moore Engineers and Consultants since August and said that what he is learning on the job is supplementing his class work.
“UH has a very comprehensive program in civil engineering, and the renowned faculty and instructors know exactly what they’re doing,” Augustine said.
Augustine’s appreciation for his studies has also matured through his work at Walter P. Moore and in the classroom.
“I see that civil engineering is the most all-encompassing discipline that there is because it deals with everything,” Augustine said. “No one thinks twice when they drive over a bridge about whether or not it will collapse. They take it for granted that it’s safe. Civil engineers have to make sure it won’t collapse. In a stairwell, no one thinks about whether they can make it to the next floor. Civil engineers have to ensure that the stairwell is built with enough support. Civil engineering is like the house of life. It’s what provides everything with the structural support to live a safe life.”
In the spring, Augustine will begin work on his master’s degree, and he said that his progress at UH is easy to track, even in his involvement in the college.
“By nature I am a reserved person, and when I came here I was not very inclined to ask questions in class because when I did people would immediately notice my accent,” Augustine said. “I’ve grown from where I was, that reserved person, to where I am, the president of Chi Epsilon and vice president of the [UH student chapter of the] American Society of Civil Engineers. For me, that’s a really big accomplishment.”