URI’s International Engineering Program turned 20 this fall with the grand opening of a building renovated to house additional students in the expanding program.
“This program—one of the most prestigious on campus—attracts top students from around the country, and leading global companies aggressively seek them out upon graduation,” said President Robert L. Carothers.
The program requires students to complete simultaneous degrees in a foreign language (German, French, Spanish, or Chinese) and an engineering discipline. The students also spend a year working and studying abroad.
“Ours is the first program in the nation to offer a complete language degree, a complete engineering degree, and a year abroad, all in five years,” said the program’s founder and director, John Grandin. “It has become a model that many other universities have followed.”
The program’s second facility, the former Chi Phi fraternity house, was transformed and expanded into a living and learning community. It houses 37 students who can live, learn, and interact in comfortable and modern accommodations. The building includes a community room, meeting space, a videoconferencing facility, and a student dining room. It also serves as the program’s administrative home.
The building is next to the original IEP House, which houses 40 students. The side-by-side buildings, connected by new walkways and a patio, will be known as the Heidi Kirk Duffy Center for International Engineering Education, named for the chair of the program’s advisory board and a longtime supporter of international education at URI. Duffy donated her yacht to the program, and the $400,000 proceeds from its sale were used to purchase the fraternity building.
The building’s renovation was undertaken with the generous support of three major donors:
• The Sensors and Controls Division of Texas Instruments (now Sensata Technologies) contributed $400,000 to the program, most of which was used for renovations to the new facility, with the remainder used for scholarships and program support. Thomas Wroe, president of Sensata, is a 1972 alumnus and Donna Kimmel, senior vice president, serves on the IEP Advisory Board.
•The second floor of the building will be called the Max Kade German Language Learning Community, named for the foundation that contributed $200,000 to support the renovation. The Max Kade Foundation was established by a German immigrant who made his fortune producing cough syrup and who was committed to promoting German language and culture programs.
• Z.F. Friedrichshafen AG, a manufacturer and supplier of transmissions, chassis, and other components for the automobile industry, also contributed $200,000 in support of the renovation.
Quick IEP Facts
• The pioneering program was conceived by former URI Engineering Dean Hermann Viets and German Professor John Grandin, who has served as director of the program since its inception in 1987.
• The IEP was designed to meet business and industry needs for engineers with cross-cultural communication skills in the rapidly evolving global workplace.
• IEP students study language and culture along with their engineering curriculum. In the fourth year of the five-year program they go abroad as interns in engineering firms based in Europe, Latin America, or China and also as exchange students with one of URI’s partner universities.
• This year, URI joined with the Technical University of Braunschweig to offer a dual doctoral degree. The doctoral program joins the existing dual master’s degree program with the German university. Students in these two programs will carry out a portion of their study programs at Braunschweig.