2011 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: Master of Engineering in Professional Practice
Age: 37 | Monterey, California
Civil Affairs Officer, United States Marine Corps
Amidst the chaos of war, Major Rudy Quiles worked to bring stability, opportunity and purpose to civilians in some of the most dangerous parts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
A highly competent engineer and manager in the civilian world, Quiles took his skills overseas on two tours of duty as a Civilian Affairs Officer with the United States Marine Corps to lead reconstruction and economic development projects in both Fallujah, Iraq, and Afghanistan's war-torn Nawa District of the Helmand Province. There, he worked with local civilians to rebuild public infrastructure and rehabilitate local governance. He also built critical relationships to successfully manage complex partnerships between civilian authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and military forces.
"I [had to draw] upon my Wisconsin experience to blaze my own path toward solutions where there were often no markers to guide me," he says.
Quiles credits the Master of Engineering in Professional Practice Program with giving him the communication and problem-solving skills necessary to overcome unusually difficult challenges every day. These included translating technical information to illiterate contractors, mediating among agencies with conflicting agendas and stewarding millions of taxpayer dollars ... not to mention the challenge of leading Marines in such a complex environment, despite the ever-present danger to his life and to the lives of those around him.
With duties varying from translator to manager to counselor, Quiles most recently played a vital role in developing local governance in the former Taliban stronghold of the Nawa District. He collaborated with inexperienced government officials to foster security and to develop jobs for men and women alike, all while channeling thematic messages of tolerance and integrity to overcome anti-coalition Taliban communications.
In Fallujah, Quiles created work projects and millions of dollars worth of infrastructure rehabilitation to the city's industrial sector, assisting the development of dozens of small factories that employed hundreds of citizens.
Now stateside, Quiles is blazing a new path toward psychiatry, where he hopes to gain the skills to help his fellow servicemen and servicewomen well into the future.
"I see myself starting medical school and then returning to active duty to serve as a mental health specialist," he says, "in anticipation of the great need that will surely come, given our large amount of veterans returning from these difficult deployments."
In his own words
What five items would you take to a desert island?
Five? Seriously, all you need are two "items" — MacGyver and Bear Grylls.
What is the one thing every UW student must do?
Every UW student should take an advanced communications course. It may sound strange, but in life the ability to communicate with others — be it spoken, written, technically or abstractly — is critical in order to organize, manage and lead diverse stakeholder groups to achieve goals.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
My grandfather said: "The best gift that I can give you is an appreciation for learning. So whatever you do, make yourself a better man and get educated."
What are you reading now?
The Price of Liberty by Robert Hormats is a fantastic book that combines warfare, history and economics. As a veteran of both of our current conflicts, reading this book made me appreciate how precariously close to economic failure our nation has come in the past because of the cost of conflict. I just hope that we aren't "too big to fail" at this juncture in history.