Rhode Island: It's All in Our Backyard

Creating global reach from Our Backyard

October 6, 2014 by chris

uri engineering hardhat kidThere is a group of very bright URI engineering students who could say “”Wir haben alles hier vor Ort” when talking about the Our Backyard campaign. That’s because they are enrolled in a “one-of-a-kind” immersion program that marries engineering and foreign languages. In fact, URI calls its International Engineering Program a national model. Already more than 500 graduates are working around the world for such engineering titans as Johnson & Johnson, BMW, Dow Chemical Co., and more.

The five-year program allows students to pursue degrees in engineering and a foreign language simultaneously. The program launched with German and has proven so popular with students and employers that there are now programs for Chinese, French, Italian, and Spanish, too.

Students spend half a year studying abroad and half a year in a paid internship. When they are not out of the country or getting on-the-job engineering experience, students live together on campus where conversations occur in a foreign language as often as in English and students support one another’s shared career and personal goals.

“The value to globally operating companies is that our students can be used as cultural ambassadors between engineering cultures in America, France, Spain Germany, China and elsewhere,” says URI Professor Sigrid Berka. She leads the program, which has been recognized by the German government, and received the prestigious Andrew Heiskell Award and the Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for innovation in international education and internationalizing its engineering curriculum.