Ann-Perry Witmer

Ann-Perry Witmer
Ann-Perry Witmer
  • Lecturer
(217) 244-7805
360 T Agricultural Engr Sciences Bld

For More Information


  • Ph.D. Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois, 2018
  • M.S., Civil Engineering (SRIS), University of Illinois, 2016
  • B.S., Civil/Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois, 2002, highest honors
  • B.A., Art History, Boston University, 1982, Magna Cum Laude
  • B.S., Journalism, Boston University, 1982, Magna Cum Laude


Ann-Perry Witmer is a Teaching Assistant Professor at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. After earning her undergraduate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, Dr. Witmer designed drinking-water systems throughout the Midwest as a professional consulting engineer for more than a decade. During that time, she also became involved in humanitarian engineering work, ultimately helping to create service organizations that designed and installed engineered infrastructure with communities in Central America and the Caribbean. Dr. Witmer returned to the University in 2013 as a lecturer in the Grainger of College of Engineering and continued to teach while earning her doctoral degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, focusing her studies on the effectiveness of engineering design for non-industrialized societies. She continues to teach courses in international engineering design and acts as faculty advisor to Engineers Without Borders-UIUC, and her project travels have taken her to Central America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America, where she's developed a deep understanding of the relationship between technical and social considerations that must be co-evaluated for under-resourced communities. Many of her insights were gleaned from a first career in journalism, during which time Dr. Witmer built a robust understanding of the relevance of context to applied efforts in government, industry, and the environment.

While serving as a facilitator in the Carle College of Medicine's problem-based learning experience, Dr. Witmer 's research effort continues to refine the Contextual process methodology, examining not only the relationship between technology and user but also the significance of the caregiver/technician role in a user/patient relationship and the process by which a caregiver/technician develops the capability of applying context to decision-making. Her methodology has been applied to engineering design processes for infrastructure and products, entrepreneurial pursuits and business management practices, and healthcare practices and management.

Academic Positions

  • Assistant Teaching Professor, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, 2024-present
  • Senior Research Scientist, Applied Research Institute, Contextual Innovation & Practice, 2022-2024
  • Research Affiliate, Institute for Sustainability in Energy and Environment, 2023-present
  • Affiliate, Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2022-present
  • Center Affiliate, Center for African Studies, 2022-present
  • Center Affiliate, Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, 2022-present
  • WGGP Affiliate, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives, 2022-present
  • Lecturer, ECE, Context in Power Systems, 2020-present
  • Research Scientist, Applied Research Institute, Contextual Innovation & Practice, 2020-2022
  • Lecturer, 2018,present, CIMED
  • Lecturer, ABE, Contextual Engineering, 2018-present
  • Lecturer, Engineering, Illinois Engineering First-Year Experience, 2013-2020


Other Professional Employment

  • Project Manager, Foth Infrastructure Inc., Madison, WI 2012-2014
  • Project Manager, Crispell-Snyder Inc., Madison, WI 2007-2012
  • Project Engineer, Strand Associates, Madison, WI 2002-2007
  • Freelance Writer, self-employed, Illinois, 1991-2001
  • Editor/Reporter, Peoria Journal Star, Peoria IL, 1985-1991
  • Editor/Reporter, Bethlehem Globe-Times, Bethlehem, PA 1982-1985

Professional Registrations

  • LEED AP BD+C, United States, current
  • Expert Witness, State of Florida, current
  • Professional Engineer, Illinois, current
  • Professional Engineer, Minnesota, current
  • Professional Engineer, Wisconsin, current

Resident Instruction

  • ABE 469 Capstone Design Experience
  • ABE232/AFST233 Context in International Interventions
  • ABE532 Advanced Contextual Engineering

Student Organizations

  • AWWA/WEF UIUC chapter
  • Engineers Without Borders UIUC chapter

Design Teams

  • Epplin, Annabelle; and Mohan, Abigail, AY 2021-2023, advised on independent research project to develop applied solar-power system design using Contextual Engineering for rural Cameroon community
  • Patel, A., McKay A., and Larson, L., AY 2021-2022, design of bench scale cardamom seed dryer for use by rural Guatemala farmers
  • Abbamonte, C., Chattopadhyay, A.C., et al., AY 2020-22, design of wind turbine constructed of used auto parts for implementation by auto-distributor foundation to support rural Guatemala communities

Research Interests

  • Parsing the urban-rural divide to address health needs in agricultural communities
  • Leveraging context in addressing interactions between land, people, and environmental practices
  • Applying context to engineering processes in the industrialized world - finding the nuances of societal differences in rural America
  • Measuring context using observation-based tool - best practices for using the Contextual Tool
  • The infrastructure client experience in non-industrialized societies - enthographic evaluation of the indigenous society experience
  • Learning from a society's innovative self-sufficiency to build a robust and sustainable technical infrastructure
  • Context and entrepreneurship - when does user context begin to influence product development?
  • Contextual Engineering application to remote power systems design
  • Building a contextual understanding among engineering students through project-based learning
  • The value of place-based knowledge in addressing technology user context and capability
  • The impact of rurality and indigenous identity on technical decision-making in non-industrialized societies

Books Authored or Co-Authored (Original Editions)

Books Edited or Co-Edited (Original Editions)

Selected Articles in Journals

  • "Contextual Engineering Assessment Using an Influence-Identification Tool", 2018, Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology
  • "The Influence of Development Objectives and Local Context upon International Service Engineering Infrastructure design, 2018, Witmer, A-P., International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development
  • "Contextual Engineering to Address Preservation of Rural Societies, 2018, Journal of Academic Perspectives
  • "An Ethnographic Justification for Establishment of a Contextual Engineering Discipline", 2019, Witmer, A-P., Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology
  • "Making the Case for Food Security Through Contextual Engineering", 2019, Witmer, A-P., Journal of Agriculture and Horticulture Research
  • "Contextual Engineering leverages Local Knowledge to Guide Water System Design," 2020, Witmer, A-P., Journal AWWA.
  • "Cultivating the Assimilative Perspective in Contextual Engineering - Knowing What You Don't Know," 2020, Witmer, A-P., Journal of Humanitarian Engineering.
  • "The Need for Teaching Place-Based Contextualization For Sustainable Power System Infrastructure Design," 2021, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, Chattopadhyay, A.C., Witmer, A-P, and Sauer, P.
  • "A GIS-Based Approach to Dynamic Accessibility: Incorporating a User Perspective to Recognize Social Equity Implications" 2023, Robbennolt, D., and Witmer, A-P, Transpertation Research Record
  • "A Practical Methodology for Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Valuation in Distribution Networks", 2023, Rousan, T., Haran, K., and Witmer, A-P, Electric Power Systems Research
  • "Can Renewable Energy Work for Rural Societies? Exploring productive use, institutions, support systems, and trust for solar electricity in the Navajo Nation" 2024, Chattopadhyay, A.C., Sauer, P., and Witmer, A-P., Energy Research and Social Science, (early cite)

Articles in Conference Proceedings

  • The Influence of Personal Experience & Identity on Design: Teaching Positionality to Engineers, 2024, Lawson-Bulten, E., , Lindgren, S., and Witmer, A-P., 2024 American Society for Engineering Education Conference and Exposition (accepted)
  • "Applying Contextual Engineering to Engineering Needs for Bodaway Gap Chapter in the Areas of Water and Energy" 2023, Chattopadhyay, A.C., Haran, K.S., and Witmer, A-P., Eleventh International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (best student paper award)
  • "Managed Charging solution to Mitigate Adverse Impact of the Maximum Demand Payment Component of a Commercial Electric Vehicle Fast-Charging Facility's Electricity Bill," 2022, Khalid, M.T., Rzonca, A., Sauer, P., and Witmer, A-P, CIGRE US National Committtee 2022 Grid of the Future Symposium
  • "Advancing Deeper Penetration of Electric Vehicle Fast-Charging Facilities in Communities: A Contextual Approach," 2022, Khalid, M.T., Sauer, P., and Witmer, A-P., BECC 2022: Engaging All Voices
  • "Community Scale Response to Climate Change Impacts on Rural Agricultural Economies," 2021, Witmer, A-P; Wuebbles, D.J; Jain, A.; Colina Morles, E.; Rigsbee, C., Myers, P.; and dall'Erba, S., IEEE International Symposium on Technologies for Homeland Security (best paper award)
  • "Contextualizing Engineering Service Learning by Applying the Practices of Community Organizing," 2021, Mingee, J. and Witmer, A-P, proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference
  • "Building STEAM for Global Engineering through Collaboration with the Social Sciences and Humanities during the COVID-19 Pandemic," 2021, Witmer, A-P; Andino Martínez, J.C.; Coiado, O.C.; Mingee, J.M.; Andrade, F.; and Pollack-Lagushenko, T; proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference
  • "A Contextual Innovation and Process Investigation of an International Student Entrepreneurial Organization," 2021, Lake, R.E.; Altenberg, J.B.; Rzonca, A.; Hashem, K., and Witmer, A-P., proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference
  • "Understanding and Incorporating Stakeholder Perspectives in International Engineering: A Phrase Mining Analysis," 2019, Schreiber, K.L., Rodriguez, L.F., Witmer, A-P., and Dill, B., Proceedings of 2019 ASABE Annual International Meeting
  • "Bringing a Cross-Disciplinary, Contextual Approach to International Service Engineering Learning", 2016, Jahnke, K., , Witmer, A-P., Tan, M., and Witmer, G.F., proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference
  • "Drawing Upon Non-Engineering Disciplines to Research Sustainability of Engineered Infrastructure in South America", 2016, Jahnke, K., and Witmer, A-P., proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference

Refereed Conference Papers and Presentations

  • "The Impact of non-Contextualized Technology upon Self-Learning and System Management in Zambia, Africa," 2023, Witmer, A-P., 15th Annual ASMEA Conference
  • "Integrating the Context of Bodaway Gap Chapter into Infrastructure Design," 2023, Witmer, A-P., Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board Conference
  • "A Contextual Engineering Primer," 2023, Witmer, A-P., Energy Access and Sustainable Business Educators Workshop (NSF-sponsored)
  • "Using Contextual Engineering to Inform Coastal Reslience Decisions in the Great Lakes Region," 2022, Lusebrink, A., and Witmer, A-P, International Conference on Quantitative Ethnography
  • "Contextual Challenges in using DERs to Advance Remote Electrification," 2022, Chattopadhyay, A.C., Sauer, P., and Witmer, A-P., Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences
  • "Community-Scale Response to Climate Change Impacts on Rural Agricultural Economies" with Wuebbles, D., 2022, Indivisble Rural Illinois
  • "Contextual Engineering Story Time: Why we need a new approach to EWB Engineering Design," 2021, Engineers Without Borders-NE Regional Conference
  • "Transnational Collaboration to Improve cardamom Drying Process in Guatemala," 2021, Witmer, A-P., Rausch, K., Montufar, A., Patel, A., and Larson, L., Engineers Without Roders-USA National Conference
  • "An Ethnographic Justification for Establishment of a Contextual Engineering Discipline," 2018, Witmer, A-P., 7th Annual Sociology of Development Conference
  • "Making the Case for Food security Through Contextual Engineering,"2018, Witmer, A-P., Agripace '18 International Conference
  • "Contextual Engineering to Address Preservation of rural Societies", 2018, Witmer, A-P., Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration and Environment
  • "Contextual Engineering for Sustainability and Robust Design," 2018, Witmer, A-P., Engineers Without Borders-USA National Conference
  • "The Intersection of Education and Service in Sub-Saharan Africa," 2017. Illinois Center for African Studies Brown Bag Series
  • "Considering Context in Engineering Design," 2017, Witmer, A-P., Engineers Without Borders-USA National Conference
  • "Forging a Utility/Customer Partnership to Address Water Quality Violations," 2014, Witmer, A-P., and Tan, M., American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition

Pending Articles

  • "The Impact of Non-Contextualized Technology Transfer upon System Performance in Zambia, Africa," 2024, Witmer, A-P., The Journal of Technology Transfer  
  • "Engineering Sociolinguistics: How Understanding Language Diffferences Can Improve Engineering Practice," 2023, Chattopadhyay, A.C., and Witmer, A-P., Technology in Society
  • "Alternative Fuel Grades for Electric Vehicle Fast-Charging," 2023, Khalid, M.T., Rzonca, A., Witmer, A-P., and Haran, K., IEEE Transactions on Transportation Electrification
  • "The Importance of Community's Context to Societal Electric Vehicle Adoption Modelling," 2023, Khalid, M.T., Altenberg, J.B., Kaberlein, A.J., and Witmer, A-P., 2024, Technology In Society

Invited Lectures

  • "Applying Contextual Engineering to Technical Design"
  • "The Origins of Contextual Engineering"
  • "Climate Change: Applying Context to Wicked Problems"
  • "Identifying How Rural Communities will Respond to the Impacts of Global Climate Change"
  • "The Role of Context in Engineering Design"
  • "The Role of Context in Infrastructure Design for Non-Industrialized Communities"
  • "The Importance Of Context In Drinking Water System Design"
  • Meeting Communities' Needs through Contextual Engineering
  • "Letting Go for Success in International Service"

Magazine Articles

  • If Not Now, When? Civil and Environmental Engineering Magazine, Illinois, 2009
  • Geothermal Technology: A Green Hornet's Nest for Drinking Water Suppliers, Wisconsin Water Association Magazine, 2010


  • Manual on Water Supply and Treatment, Government of India, 2022-present, Witmer, A-P., Technical Review panelist

Other Scholarly Activities

  • "Sustainability Justice Roundtable," 2019, (moderator), ISEE Congress: Environmental Justice, Urbana, IL
  • "Sustainable solutions for Rural, Small and Medium Sized Illinois Communities Facing a Changing Climate," 2022, (invited panelist), DPI CURES Community Project Lab, Springfield, IL
  • "Engineering for Good Roundtable," 2022, (discussant), World Engineering Education Forum and Global Engineering Deans Council, Capetown, South Africa

Conferences Organized or Chaired

  • First Global FEW Summit, 2022, (organizer), hosted delegates from Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Zambia on UIUC campus to initiate an organizational alliance of academic, NGO, and business collaborators establishing a network of regional hubs. Hubs will gather, curate, and protect place-based strategies for adapting to Global Climate Change in the areas of food, energy, and water. Collaborators continue to meet monthly and network has expanded to Canada, Italy, Central America, and additional Sub-Saharan African countries. A second biannual summit is being planned for April 2024 in Bolivia.


  • "Contextualizing Nursing Needs for Development of Retention-Support App," 2023, Witmer, A-P., Emmerling, S., Graham, N., Timmons, A., Kupferschmid, M., and Abebe, F. Poster presentation for 10th Year Anniversary Health Care Engineering Systems Symposium: Celebrating a Decade of the JumpARCHES Partnership

Other Scholarly Activities

  • Numerous reviews of scholarly papers for journals including AWWA Water Science, Cogent Engineering, Journal of Systems Engineering, Hydrology & Earth System Sciences, and Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology
  • National Science Foundation CMMI Game Changer Academy for Advancing Research Innovation, 2021, cohort member

Professional Societies

  • Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, 2023-present, member
  • American Sociological Association, 2022-present, member
  • American Society of Civil Engineers, 2002-present, member
  • American Water Works Association, 1998-present, member

Service on College Committees

  • Executive Committee, Graduate College, 2022-present (elected), chair of Program Subcommittee
  • Advisor, AWWA/WEF UIUC Chapter, 2015-present
  • Engineers Without Borders-UIUC Chapter, 2014-2023, faculty advisor; travel mentor to Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ecuador teams, 2014-present; Registered Engineer in Charge, Ecuador and Community Engineering Corps projects, 2019-present

Service on Campus Committees

  • Executive Committee, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives, 2021-present (elected)
  • Engagement iCAP Team, Institute for Sustainability in Energy and Environment, 2020-2023, Chair (appointed)
  • FLAS Committee, Center for Global Studies, 2020-2021, member (appointed)
  • Education iCAP SWAT Team, Institute for Sustainability in Energy and Environment, 2019-2020, member (appointed)
  • FLAS Committee, Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, member (appointed)
  • Advisory Committee, Center for African Studies, 2018-2020, member (appointed)
  • Certified Green Office Program, ISEE, 2014-2019, sustainability ambassador

Service to Federal and State Government

  • National Science Foundation Engineering Directorate, 2023, proposal review panelist
  • USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program, 2022, volunteer consultant to Zambia soymilk production facility
  • Fulbright Specialist Program, 2021-present, approved for service


  • Harvey Jordan Award, Engineering at Illinois (2002)
  • William McKay Award, CEE at Illinois (2002)

Teaching Honors

  • Ben and Georgeann Jones Excellence in Teaching Award (2024)
  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (S2024,S2023, S/F 2021,S/F2020, S/F2019, S/F2018, S/F2017, S/F2016, S/F2015, F2014 )
  • Honoree, 150 for 150: Celebrating 150 Years of Women at the University of Illinois (2017)

Recent Courses Taught

  • ABE 199 EW1 (ABE 199 EWB) - Intl Engrg Service Proj Mgmt
  • ABE 199 EWB - Intl Engrg Service Proj. Mgmt
  • ABE 232 (AFST 233) - Context Intl Interventions
  • ABE 469 - Capstone Design Experience
  • ABE 469 - Industry-Linked Design Project
  • ABE 498 AW1 (ABE 498 AW2) - Contextual Engineering
  • ABE 498 AW1 (ABE 498 AW2, AFST 495) - Context in Int'l Interventions
  • ABE 498 AW3 - Int'l Interventions
  • ABE 532 - Advanced Contextual Design
  • AFST 495 - Special Topics
  • ENG 177 AD1 - Inspiring Interacting Informng
  • ENG 177 IS (ENG 198 IS) - Introduction to Sustainability
  • ENG 177 SID (ENG 198 SID) - Strategies for Intl Developmnt
  • ENG 198 AD1 - Inspiring Interacting Informin
  • ENG 198 PD - IEFX Professional Development
  • ENG 398 EWB - Independent Study
  • ENG 398 HP1 (ENG 598 HP1) - HWP Implementation Trip
  • ENG 398 IN2 - Engineers Without Borders
  • ENG 440 (LAST 550) - International Water Project I
  • ENG 441 - Guatemala Water Project II
  • ENG 441 - Honduras Water Project II
  • ETMA 438 - Renewable Energy Applications
  • LAST 440 - Honduras Water Project I
  • LAST 550 (LAST 441) - International Water Project II