Unparalleled International Experience Develops Global Engineers

Valpo’s College of Engineering is committed to maintaining a program of excellence that provides students with a wide range of interactive experiences, both inside and outside the classroom and around the world. In recognition of the global forces that affect today’s business environment, the College of Engineering encourages students to take advantage of the international experiences the College offers, specifically the Valparaiso International
Engineering Program (VIEP).

“VIEP provides our engineering students with the opportunity to intimately mix their engineering studies with a Study Abroad experience,” says Luke Venstrom ’07, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “The program provides students with the skills that they need to be successful in a global economy that continues to become increasingly global. Theystudents develop the ability to span cultural gaps and do engineering with people who come from different backgrounds and speak an entirely different language.”

Established in 2003, VIEP is a five-year program that combines a major in civil, computer, electrical, or mechanical engineering with a major or minor in German, French, or Spanish or a minor in Chinese. Language, literature, and cultural courses are integrated into the core engineering curriculum, with the program’s main feature occurring in the fourth year, when students spend an entire academic year and subsequent summer in France, Germany, Spain, or China.

VIEP includes a one-semester Study Abroad program in an established international engineering program, followed by an internship with an international engineering company the subsequent semester and ensuing summer. With only three universities nationwide offering a similar culturally immersive engineering experience, VIEP is unique.

The 2016–2017 academic year found Jack Hoeniges ’18, mechanical engineering and French major, in France as part of the VIEP program. After a semester of studies at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne, Jack became the first Valpo student to pursue his cooperative education placement at the Processes, Materials, and Solar Energy (PROMES) laboratory, a French National Center for Scientific Research lab. He is grateful to Professor Palumbo ’80, Ph.D., Alfred W. Sieving Chair of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering, who previously worked at PROMES and personally recommended Jack.

At PROMES, Jack worked on the development of a model to understand the temperature and radiation distributions on the surface of a tube when filled with a dense suspension of flowing particles and subjected to concentrated solar radiation. He worked with MATLAB and computational fluid dynamic software, engaged in experimental testing in the 1 MW solar furnace, and even received a visit from Professor Venstrom, who serves as Jack’s advisor and mentored Jack in research at the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility at Valpo in summer 2016.

“In addition to experience in the engineering field, this experience has given me confidence in a professional environment,” Jack says. “Gaining the ability to do presentations and discuss technical topics in your second language gives you a lot of confidence in your ability to do the same in your native language.”

Throughout its rich, nearly 15-year history, VIEP has impacted the lives of numerous students, combining multicultural experience and language proficiency with technical engineering skills — creating well-rounded, culturally aware graduates prepared to thrive in the global business environment.

A decade ago, Nate Leonard ’08, mechanical engineering and German graduate, was involved in the VIEP program, through which he studied in Reutlingen, Germany, and engaged in a cooperative education placement with Hansgrohe, testing lime scale buildup on shower heads and developing plans to improve test setup.

“An emotionally intense experience, VIEP gave me confidence and a greater understanding of who I am,” Nate says. “I don’t think there’s a better way to understand what makes a person themselves than to be with new people and cultures that provide significant contrast.”

Nate’s cross-cultural experiences didn’t end at Valpo, as he has served as a postdoctoral researcher at the Technical University of Berlin for the past two years, working on research involving electrocatalysis. His international experiences have equipped him with the skills to advance in the global marketplace, preparing him for success in his new role with General Motors, a multinational company.

International pursuits have proven to be an invaluable window into different cultures, expanding the mind and enriching one’s life. Creating these transformative educational experiences that prepare graduates to lead and serve in a diverse, dynamic global environment is central to the mission of Valparaiso University and the College of Engineering.