NU alum wins humanitarian award for waste-management innovation in India

Allyson Chiu, Reporter

Anoop Jain (McCormick ’09) recently won the $100,000 Waislitz Global Citizen Award for his humanitarian efforts to improve public health in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India.

Jain is the co-founder and U.S. director of the Humanure Power, which aims to decrease the amount of people who defecate outdoors to improve the area’s overall health.

After graduating from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science with a degree in environmental engineering, Jain was hired at an engineering company in Chicago.

Less than a year later, he quit to pursue his true passion: humanitarian work.

Jain moved to India and discovered that millions in Bihar did not have toilets. The lack of a sanitation system was causing many to die of preventable diseases, which Jain said he finds absurd.

“Those numbers are tragic, and there’s absolutely no reason why those numbers should be the way they are, not in the 21st century,” he said.

Jain said he had anything but a smooth transition into college. After a difficult first two years brought on by “extenuating circumstances,” he was expelled for low academic performance from the University in 2006. He then took classes at another school, appealed the expulsion and was re-admitted to NU nine months later.

“It really forced me to go through a challenge early in life, and it made me a lot stronger,” Jain said. “I often think back and think, ‘Man you know I got through that.’”

Joseph Holtgreive, McCormick assistant dean for student career development, who made the call to Jain informing him of the expulsion, said he sees him as an inspiration to other NU students because he is “a testimonial to the importance of resilience” for fighting his way out of the “it wasn’t my fault” mentality.

“He deserves enormous credit for his persistence and hard work,” Holtgreive said. “I think the award is a nice acknowledgment of that, but I think the real exciting thing to celebrate is the impact he’s had and the effort he’s put into changing people’s lives.”

After returning to NU, Jain discovered his love for humanitarian work by participating and leading relief efforts sponsored by Alternative Student Breaks.

“I loved ASB because it was never about just going there and building a house for a week and then coming back to campus,” Jain said. “It was about responding to a need in that moment but understanding that it will never, ever, ever be enough, and if you really want to affect substantive change, it’s going to take a lot more.”

Even with the external praise, Jain does not see himself as an entrepreneur or a director of a program. Instead he said he considers himself and his team “people who are working where there’s need.”

“When you have experienced the grace of a second chance firsthand, all you want to do is work with people to ensure that they have not only just a second chance, but any chance to succeed,” Jain said.

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