A BMW cruised onto the URI Kingston campus not long ago, a flawless white sports car with a top speed of 155 miles per hour. But don’t worry. No speed limits were broken.
The car—a BMW i8, to be exact—was parked outside the International Engineering Program’s building for the day while BMW representatives interviewed engineering and business students for internships, and gave a lively presentation.
It was BMW’s first trip to campus, but, if crowd size is a measure of interest, probably not its last. “We were thrilled to host BMW,” said IEP Director Sigrid Berka. “Having such a prestigious—and well‐respected—company on campus is an honor. We’re on the map.”
So cool. It’s a great program, and job placement is 100 percent. You can’t beat that.
The five‐year IEP program offers a dual degree in an engineering field and a language—Chinese, French, German, Italian or Spanish, with Japanese on the horizon. Students spend a year studying abroad and participating in an internship. Nearly all of the graduates find jobs, including some with BMW.
The latest job placement numbers involving the car manufacturer are impressive: Seven URI students are working with BMW—two at the Munich headquarters and the others at BMW Manufacturing in South Carolina and at BMW of North America in New Jersey, including Dennis Heaphy and Eric Sargent, both IEP graduates who touted their employer during the meet‐and‐greet with URI students.
Heaphy and Sargent said the IEP program did a great job preparing them to work at BMW. Not only did they learn a new language, they learned how different countries solve problems. “The language was crucial for me,” said Heaphy, who studied in Germany. “Several hours a day in this job you’re conversing with your partners overseas.”
The URI alums and BMW representatives captivated the students, praising the company’s inspiring work culture and challenging internships, which are paid and last six months. Enthusiasm, the reps said, is the number one quality they look for in an employee.
While the presentation was informative, it had a bit of trouble competing with the car, which can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 4 seconds and sells for just over $140,000. Students swarmed around the stunner after the session for a group photo.
“I’m a car enthusiast,” said John Brehany, an IEP student studying mechanical engineering and German. “I’m really, really happy that I got the chance to talk to them. It’s awesome they brought the car here. You get to see the application of what you’re studying in one beautiful package. It’s the ultimate driving machine.”
His roommate, Benjamin Welch, is also enrolled in the program, but his focus is electrical engineering. Still, he couldn’t help but be charmed by the car—and URI’s engineering program.
“So cool,’’ he said. And so is IEP. “It’s a great program, and job placement is 100 percent. You can’t beat that.”
This year’s IEP graduates who applied for internships are still waiting to hear if they are accepted. Berka is hopeful: “Our students are spectacular. They would be a wonderful contribution to any company.”