Meet Francesco Rouhana

Francesco Rouhana is a second-year Ph.D. student in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is the Vice President of the 2022-23 John Lof Leadership Academy cohort.

As the vice president, Rouhana focuses on an initiative to combat food insecurity that members pledged to fight this year.

“We found out that on this topic, most food insecurity studies are done for undergraduates, and the incidence rate was unexpectedly high. So, we asked ‘why don’t they talk about graduate students?’ We are all graduates at John Lof,” Rouhana said. “Some of our colleagues have this problem.”

Rouhana plans to gather data about how graduate students experience food insecurity. It can look different for everyone, he said. Some graduates have families or live off-campus. The second goal is to provide resources to students, whether it be through presentations on inexpensive nutritious eating, workshops, or nearby markets.

In the past, Rouhana’s research has leaned towards humanistic causes like these. His master’s thesis assessed the resilience of different communities in Lebanon to natural disasters. With this, organizations can allocate resources accordingly to at-risk communities, which may suffer more from unsafe roads.

Other studies included analyzing the effectiveness of proposed dedicated bus routes in Lebanon and road mortality prevention. These were amongst a variety of papers that he presented at conferences.

“My fascination in this field in Civil and Environmental Engineering stems from my beliefs in helping to shape the world around me to meet the demands of the future generation to come. Civil engineering has given us contextual knowledge on the impact of our changing world,” Rouhana said. 

His classes at Notre Dame University-Louaize introduced transportation engineering to him. He was also a site engineer for the university.

It was his dream as a child to be a professor. Rouhana’s time as a teaching assistant during his Master’s solidified his decision to pursue a Ph.D.  

Since his family was in Connecticut, one of the schools he looked at was UConn. Ultimately, he said that he felt that UConn cared about its students through the wealth of information and support they provide to international students.

“When I moved to UConn, I told myself that I need to learn more and to bolster my leadership skills. It’s not all that easy to deal with new environments and people with different backgrounds,” Rouhana said. 

He saw an advertisement for a community that fit those needs: the John Lof Leadership Academy. Rouhana said that his first goal was to influence others to be leaders in their fields and to improve his confidence. 

As the vice president, he confidently said that John Lof has given him the confidence to overcome difficulties and speak out, and have open communication with others.

“What do I want to do in the future? I want human infrastructure to move towards a shared space. It starts with not destroying natural habitats with asphalt or deforestation. Inequality is also a big problem, with certain populations being harmed more due to land development. Lastly, roads should be for all people like bicyclists and wheelchair users,” Rouhana said.