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 Research Scientist at the Illinois Applied Research Institute. 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 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.

Today, her research effort focuses on the refinement of the Contextual process methodology, in which user conditions are incorporated into the design process to produce a more sustainable outcome. Her methodology has been applied to engineering design processes for infrastructure and products, as well as to entrepreneurial pursuits and business management practices.

Academic Positions

  • Lecturer, Engineering, 2013-2020, Illinois Engineering First-Year Experience
  • Lecturer, ECE, 2020-present, Context in Power Systems
  • Lecturer, CIMED, 2018-present
  • Lecturer, ABE, 2018-present, Contextual Engineering
  • Research Scientist, 2020-2022, Applied Research Institute
  • Senior Research Scientist, 2022-present, Applied Research Institute


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
  • Professional Engineer, Minnesota, current
  • Professional Engineer, Wisconsin, current
  • Professional Engineer, Illinois, current

Resident Instruction

  • ABE199 International Engineering Service project Management
  • ABE451/LAST441/LAST550 International Water Project II
  • ABE450/LAST440/LAST550 International Water Project I
  • ABE 469 Industry-Linked Design Project
  • ABE232/AFST233 Introduction to Contextual Engineering
  • ETMA438 Renewable Energy Systems
  • ABE532 Advanced Contextual Engineering

Student Organizations

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

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
  • Humanitarian v. Contextual Engineering project inception - do practitioner objectives and motives affect outcome?
  • Context and entrepreneurship - when does user context begin to influence product development?
  • Contextual Engineering application to remote power systems design
  • Can big data be used to predict contextual conditions for rural societies?
  • Building a contextual understanding among engineering students through project-based learning
  • 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)

  • Consilience - Learning About Ourselves by Applying Indigenous Traditions to Western Music and Technology

Chapters in Books

  • "Women in Engineers Without Borders" in Women and Ideas in Engineering: Twelve Stories from Illinois, ed. Hahn, L. and A. Wolters, University of Illinois Press, 2018

Selected Articles in Journals

  • The Need for Teaching Place-Based Contextualization For Sustainable Power System Infrastructure Design, 2021, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems
  • "Contextual Engineering leverages Local Knowledge to Guide Water System Design," July 2020, Journal AWWA.
  • "Cultivating the Assimilative Perspective in Contextual Engineering - Knowing What You Don't Know," 2020, Journal of Humanitarian Engineering.
  • "An Ethnographic Justification for Establishment of a Contextual Engineering Discipline", 2019, Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology
  • "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, International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development
  • "Making the Case for Food Security Through Contextual Engineering", 2019, Journal of Agriculture and Horticulture Research
  • "Contextual Engineering to Address Preservation of Rural Societies, 2018, Journal of Academic Perspectives

Articles in Conference Proceedings

  • Contextualizing Engineering Service Learning by Applying the Practices of Community Organizing, 2021, proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference
  • Building STEAM for Global Engineering through Collaboration with the Social Sciences and Humanities during the C OVID-19 Pandemic, 2021, proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference
  • "Understanding and incorporating stakeholder perspectives in international engineering: a phrase mining analysis", 2019, proceedings of ASABE Annual International Meeting
  • "Bringing a Cross-Disciplinary, Contextual Approach to International Service Engineering Learning", 2016, proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference
  • "Drawing Upon Non-Engineering Disciplines to Research Sustainability of Engineered Infrastructure in South America", 2016, proceedings of American Society for Engineering Education annual conference

Pending Articles

  • A Contextual Innovation and Process Investigation of an International Student Entrepreneurial Orgaqnization, ASEE

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

Conferences Organized or Chaired

  • Contextual Engineering Virtual Faculty Workshop

Professional Societies

  • Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Mayors Advisory Council on Coastal Resilience, 2020-present
  • AWWA-India Advisory Board Member, American Water Works Association, 2015-present
  • Chair, Wisconsin Section American Water Works Association, 2014
  • Public Affairs Council, American Water Works Association, 2012-2016

Service on University Committees

  • FLAS Committee member, Center for Global Studies
  • iCAP Engagement SWAT Team chair, Institute for Sustainability in Energy and Environment, University of Illinois
  • Advisory Committee member, Center for African Studies
  • iCAP Education SWAT Team member, Institute for Sustainability in Energy and Environment, University of Illinois

Service on College Committees

  • Advisor, AWWA/WEF UIUC Chapter
  • Advisor, Engineers Without Borders-UIUC Chapter

Other Outside Service

  • Vice Chair, World Water Alliance of Florida
  • Technical Review Committee, EWB-USA Community Engineering Corps
  • Domestic Application Review Committee, Community Engineering Corps
  • ICP Guru, Engineers Without Borders USA


  • Peter J. Bosscher Award (2020)
  • Leon Smith Award, Wisconsin Water Association (2008)
  • Harvey Jordan Award, Engineering at Illinois (2002)
  • William McKay Award, CEE at Illinois (2002)
  • Phi Kappa Phi (2002)
  • Keystone Press Award, Pa. Newspaper Publishers Association (1984 )
  • Pi Sigma Alpha (1982)

Teaching Honors

  • Honoree, 150 for 150: Celebrating 150 Years of Women at the University of Illinois (2017)
  • Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising (2017)
  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (S2023, S/F 2021,S/F2020, S/F2019, S/F2018, S/F2017, S/F2016, S/F2015, F2014 )

Research Honors

  • Illinois International Graduate Achievement Award (2017)

Public Service Honors

  • J. Frederick Miller Award, University YMCA (2017)
  • Public Service Award, Isaac Walton League of America (1990)

Improvement Activities

  • Online Teaching Academy, June 2020

Recent Courses Taught

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