From the prairies to the oceans


Haugen with the tools of one of his trades.

Photo by Daniel R. Burke


Clifford Haugen’s greatest engineering triumph may not be in his work as a senior Management and Technology major at Wharton and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. It just might be the textbook legs that support his wood-plank coffee table.

“I have a philosophy I follow,” Haugen said. “Never let your classes get in the way of your college education.”

Taking his own advice, this North Dakota native has received much of his education from Mother Nature, along with pursuing three degrees in five years. He will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in economics as well as a B.S. and a master’s degree in environmental systems engineering.

Haugen’s foray into environmental research began in 1993, when he worked with the University of North Dakota and the North Dakota State Parks Department on the restoration of native prairie land parched by drought. He developed techniques applicable to several environmental systems, and his work took second grand prize at the 45th International Science and Engineering Fair in Birmingham, Ala., in 1994.

Haugen, President of the Penn Scuba Club, is an avid diver intimately involved with marine biology. “Probably too much Jacques Cousteau on PBS…that’s what first made me aware of diving and got me interested in it,” he said.

Since then, though without any formal training in the field, Haugen has passionately pursued underwater research. In 1995 he investigated management strategies for marine parks in the Turks and Caicos Islands through Boston University, which led to strides to protect the native species of queen conch.

Recently, Haugen returned underwater to do original research in Papua New Guinea on the barracuda with Shane Paterson, the world’s foremost expert on the animal. Above sea level, Haugen researched subjects ranging from high-temperature boiling in nuclear reactors to the psychology of religious experiences.

His intense determination and environmental knowledge can be credited to his agricultural upbringing. He still rises at 6 every morning and uses his Wharton and Engineering training to handle many business aspects — his résumé states he’s responsible “for investment, management, insurance and estate and business continuance planning” — of the large family farm where his parents and younger brother raise wheat, barley, sun flowers, hay, cattle and hogs. While his achievements and interests may deviate from the average student’s, right now Haugen is immersed in the most common activity of Penn seniors — job hunting. After working in Philadelphia for a year, Haugen will pursue a Ph.D. concentrating on water management in developing countries and small islands at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Accompanying him to study creative writing will be Haugen’s fiancée, Melynda, whom he proposed to this past Thanksgiving in Aruba.

But not every minute of his time is spent working. This modern Renaissance man and his fiancée subscribe to the Philadelphia opera, ballet and orchestra, and he is an avid moviegoer and collector of rare books as well as a skydiver.

His motivation? “I refuse to be bored,” he says. “Sometimes it’s not always easy – sometimes it requires planning and thought and determination, but please – don’t be bored.”

Originally published on February 1, 2001