Nordica MacCarty was born and grew up in Twig, Minnesota, and attended Iowa State University for her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The summer after completing her undergraduate studies, she volunteered at Aprovecho, a non-profit based in Cottage Grove, Oregon that works to design and deploy clean burning cookstoves around the world. This experience instilled in MacCarty a love of both volunteering and the state of Oregon. Such was her passion for Aprovecho that MacCarty stayed with the organization for ten more years before fully returning to graduate school.
Once her Iowa State studies were completed, MacCarty accepted a position as a faculty member in Mechanical and Humanitarian Engineering at Oregon State. In this capacity, she was able to continue to use her connections with Aprovecho and other organizations to bolster the Humanitarian Engineering curriculum at OSU, and ultimately create a new engineering major called Engineering Design for Society.