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photo of CWC alumnus Mohan Dangi (in white hat) works with UCLA and Fresno State students to study water quality of Millerton Lake, California.
Dangi (in white hat) works with UCLA and Fresno State students to study the water quality of Millerton Lake, California.

portrait of CWC alumnus Mohan Dangi

As a recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Science Fellowship, Central Wyoming College alumnus and California State University (CSU), Fresno professor Mohan Dangi will spend a year in Washington, D.C. as an environmental sustainability advisor to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Dangi was nominated for this honor by CSU Chancellor Dr. Joseph I. Castro and endorsed by five international scientists. To complete the fellowship, he will stand alongside 15 tenured professors from higher learning institutions across the nation to advise decision-makers about complex science issues. Being able to bring relevant content back to his classroom is of critical importance for Dangi, who attributes his teaching style to both his academic and professional work.

“There is a combination of experiences that I incorporate into my overall teaching,” he said. “One part is the inclusion of my research in teaching and the second is my experiences in my education.”

For Dangi, the educational component of this equation began in the early nineties when he moved from his hometown in Dhikpur, Nepal to Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and then transferred to CWC. Despite the barriers he faced along the way, this transfer set Dangi on a 15-year pathway in higher education that would lead to five degrees.

As a first-generation college student, I had to work exceedingly hard to overcome hardships and earn my education. The journey began with a community college education in Riverton. ”

When he first arrived in Wyoming, Dangi said he didn’t know what to expect.

“When I got off in Shoshoni–after two days of bus ride from Edinboro–I was wondering where in the world I was,” he said, “but that quickly changed because of the warm welcome I received from a fellow international student from Japan who picked me up and introduced what soon to be my home for three years.”

Dangi felt a similar sense of belonging at the college.

“I immediately felt very welcome, especially with the student support services on campus and professors who would open their doors for newcomers,” Dangi said. 

Dangi was a serious student and quickly became interested in CWC’s math and science courses, and he made friends while working as a tutor in these subject areas. He said his 8 a.m. calculus class with Roger Melton was particularly impactful.

“Roger Melton is one of the most prepared mentors I have had,” Dangi said. “I learned a great deal from him and have so much respect for his wisdom and passion for mathematics.”

Melton remembers Dangi with equal fondness and said the former student’s outgoing nature helped ensure his success at CWC.

“Even though he was from Nepal and new to Wyoming and the United States, Mohan was not the typical shy student,” Melton said. “He was very personable, likable, and very eager to learn as much about America and its people as possible.”

Melton and his wife grew close with Dangi and recall attending Nepalese-themed dinners at his apartment. In these settings, it was Dangi who took on the teaching role.

“He didn’t hesitate to talk about his experiences growing up in Nepal so that I became part of this learning process as well,” Melton said.

However, Dangi had little free time while at CWC. Melton said the former student’s tendency to dedicate countless hours to studying and tutoring in the campus computer lab and library set him up for his career in the sciences.

“His success as a student in his chosen field of study was never in question,” Melton said. “His focus and determination made sure of that. He took full advantage of all that CWC had to offer in the form of an educational opportunity.”

After earning his associate degree in physical sciences with an emphasis in chemistry in 1997, Dangi went on to earn his bachelor’s in chemical engineering and petroleum refining at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM).

While at CSM, Dangi performed technology transfer work in Nepal as an intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. After practicing chemical engineering for a few years, he earned his master’s in environmental science and engineering in 2002 also from CSM and became a registered professional engineer in Colorado in 2004.

However, when Dangi returned to Nepal to develop USAID-funded engineering curricula, he observed a crisis that inspired him to shift his focus area from engineering to sustainability.

“I was walking around the heaps of putrefying refuse in the streets of Kathmandu when I decided–yes, renewable energy and developing engineering curricula are important for Nepal, but the problem of garbage and waste in the streets is far greater than that,” he said. “I must do something about it.”

Newly inspired, Dangi earned a second master’s and a Ph.D. in geography and environmental engineering in 2009 from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He ultimately accepted a faculty position developing and teaching environmental studies courses at CSU, Fresno. While his research continues in Nepal and the Central Valley of California, Dangi makes a special effort to stay connected to Wyoming.

“All these years I have been out of Riverton, I have maintained my roots by working at the University of Wyoming from 2005 to 2008 as a project engineer and most recently as a visiting professor since 2011,” he said.

Dangi also researches in the area.

“I have studied coalbed methane-produced waters in the Powder River Basin,” Dangi said. “I continue to offer a life-changing study abroad course in the Himalayas for the University of Wyoming and CSU, Fresno students by engaging an equal number of U.S. and Nepali students during summers.” 

As a professor, Dangi said he enjoys working with all kinds of students.

“I have developed the skills to work with students of various cultures, educational requirements, and levels of preparation,” he said.

As a recipient of the Jefferson Science Fellowship, Dangi said he is looking forward to serving as a spokesperson for these students and his campus community while in D.C. 

“It’s an absolute joy and my heart feels the pride to receive the renowned Jefferson Science Fellowship,” Dangi said. “I feel very fortunate to represent my students, my department, CSU, Fresno community, Central Valley, and California for this high recognition.”