UCI Engineers: Must Love Dogs

 

Courtesy Sean Alexander 

A pristine, white doghouse sits in Sean Alexander’s backyard. Outside, it resembles some of the original 1965 Brutalist-style architecture found on campus, like the kind seen at Social Science Tower. The insulation is made from re-purposed Styrofoam and it is completely sustainable. Even the roof, which slopes downward so the water can drain from the back, has a small garden growing from it. Inside, it is spacious and beautiful, perfect for Jolly.

Jolly is not your typical American dog. Resembling a large Shiba Inu, he is a primitive breed, hailing from Iraq, with very distinct features, such as a curly tail, thin body and long legs. At 80 pounds, he is easily distressed around smaller animals and children.

Alexander was given Jolly as a gift in Baghdad. Now, the UCI chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given Alexander the unique gift of a doghouse.

Informally known as Team Doghouse for the UCI ASCE chapter, they are comprised of six civil engineering students on campus.

“The fact that I participated in this event was very important to me, as my dad is in the Navy,” said Karl Moselina, a member of the group. “Some of my relatives have been away for months at a time to serve overseas so doing what I can to help out an injured veteran was definitely one of my most memorable spring breaks.”

Team Doghouse was quickly formed to take part in the ASCE competition by welcoming whoever was interested. The number of student participants was unlimited, and the only restriction was that one member must be a female.

The team met a couple times before spring break to figure out a design for the doghouse, which was inspired by President Obama’s dog Bo’s house.

Although they ended up in 12th place, it was only the first year UCI participated.

“We built the doghouse for a good cause,” Moselina said. “In the end, we selected Sean and his dog, Jolly, because of how interesting and moving their story was. The fact that Jolly was really cute helped a bit as well.”

And for that, Alexander couldn’t be more thankful.

Alexander first enlisted after he realized that, although he grew up fairly fortunate, he still lacked things most people have. His situation was never stable; his dad wasn’t a part of his life and his parents couldn’t afford to help him out with school. On top of that, they weren’t really interested in his education to begin with.

At 16, he made the decision to leave high school and start going to community college. Although those around him said it was a bad idea, Alexander went through with it, relying solely on his gut.

That was the same way he felt when he enlisted in the Army.

“When I joined, it felt like it was something that could give me a chance to grow that just never was available to me,” Alexander said. “I’ve always been an opportunist in trying new things and I’d definitely say I joined the Army to get the most out of the unique experiences, not because I needed a job.”

Alexander spent four years on active duty at Ft. Bragg, N.C., as well as over a year in Baghdad for psychological operations missions. The main focus of his deployment to Iraq was to solicit information on missing or captured soldiers, as well as increase participation in local elections and encourage Iraqis to give information on persons of interest.

From 2007 to 2008, Alexander planned routes, scheduled Blackhawk helicopters and flew all over to dump leaflets onto the city. In one particular flight, he was able to drop one and a half million leaflets at once.

“My time in Iraq was amazing. Being able to have a first-hand experience with a region and situation that mostly only gets read about or seen in the news was surreal,” Alexander said.

In two short years, he went from private to sergeant, but the thought of not finishing his undergraduate education lingered in the back of his mind.

After being selected for Special Forces, receiving a lot of “sweet” medals, meeting Gen. Petraeus and personally briefing the Secretary of Defense and the Commander of USASOC, Alexander let his contract run out.

Upon returning home safely, he enrolled in classes at UCI.

However, last summer, while on duty for the Guard, he was hospitalized for severe, aggressive blood clots in his leg and lungs. One day, he was fine; the next, he couldn’t breathe without pain and he couldn’t even bend his legs. It turned out that his condition had an autoimmune basis and was not provoked by genetics or inactivity.

Unfortunately for Alexander, this meant that his involvement with the Guard was over. When he was hospitalized, he had been scheduled to go to Officer Candidate School to commission as an infantry officer.

Alexander is now putting his energy toward participating more on campus and graduating next year, as well as caring for Jolly.

“I can’t thank the engineering students enough,” Alexander said. “I hope all of them are able to see their work built and are proud of it.”