UI alumnus Avery Bang builds pedestrian bridges through nonprofit organization

For the last ten years, one UI alumnus spends her time building pedestrian bridges in Fiji through her nonprofit organization, Bridges to Prosperity. Avery Bang connects communities all over the world and strives to be the change in a predominantly male field of work.



Lauren White, News Reporter

Building bridges takes on a literal meaning as one University of Iowa alum hopes to connect the communities around her. 

In 2007, Avery Bang graduated from the UI College of Engineering, fine-tuned a footbridge design, and turned her undergraduate project into her own full-scale foundation: Bridges to Prosperity. Bang’s organization builds pedestrian bridges for areas around the world that need them. 

“My time at the University of Iowa gave me the opportunity to combine a technical education in civil engineering with the creative skills that I learned as a studio arts major, resulting in a unique skill set that has given me the technical expertise needed for solving intractable problems as well as an eye for creative, human-centered solutions,” Bang said. 

As of 2019, MIT News reports that women make up only 13 percent of the engineering workforce — a number that is at a record high. Keri Hornbuckle, UI professor of civil and environmental engineering, said that the percentage of women students is a little higher and is comparable to the percentage of women professors at the UI.  

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“The absolute number of women students has increased a lot in the last 20 years since I came to Iowa, but so has the number of men. So, the percentage of women is not increasing as much as we would like,” Hornbuckle said. 

Hornbuckle added that Bang is really doing awesome work to truly make a difference.


Craig Just, UI associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, called Bang a key leader of a group that built pedestrian bridges in international settings. Bang had enrolled in the first offering of Just’s undergraduate course, titled “Design With the Developing World.” 

“It was amazing to witness Avery’s growth as a person and a professional while she was an undergraduate student,” Just said. “Her work since leaving Iowa has been astounding. She has inspired others outside her organization to make the world a better place — me included.” 

Bang did not even wait until graduation to begin making a difference in the world, Just said. She has continued to invest in herself and in those around her to continually hone the mission of Bridges to Prosperity to maximize the impact of the organization.

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Just said the importance of working and making change internationally rides on the fact that another 2 billion people will be added to the planet during the professional lifetime of our recent graduates. Ninety-five percent of that growth is projected to be in developing countries, he said, and alumni need a strong international perspective if they want a long and satisfying career.

“We want alumni who are ethical, globally aware citizens whose work while at the University of Iowa — and throughout their careers — make the world safer and our use of resources more efficient,” Just said. 

As a woman in a predominantly male industry, Bang thinks there is a natural evolution of discovering whether or not engineering really is the path to pursue, but engineering is a great home for women who want to solve problems and bring about creative solutions, she said. 

“When you’re the only woman out there on a project in a hard hat, one of the challenges is to see what you bring to the role as a woman that is unique and valuable to the field of engineering,” Bang said. “This is when you recognize that you can stick with it and encourage even more women into the field.”