Answer the President’s call. Aló.

URI student at a soccer tournament in Spain

At URI, students have more than the usual opportunities to study and intern abroad, and now, thanks to President Barack Obama‘s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative, they’ll have even more.

President Obama wants to enhance this country’s ties with Central and South American countries by increasing the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the number of Latin Americans studying in the United States to 100,000. URI was one of just four schools chosen from 47 to participate in the first phase of the initiative, and it was our Spanish International Engineering Program that got us on that short list.

Since 1998, the Spanish International Engineering Program has sent URI students to Spain and Mexico, and now, they’ll be heading to Chile as well.

Spanish Professor Megan Echevarria, director of the program, submitted the winning proposal with the goal of jump-starting opportunities for URI engineering students to work and learn in Chile. Since 1998, the Spanish international engineering program has sent URI students to Spain and Mexico, and now, they’ll be heading to Chile as well, for internships, a summer service-learning research project in Valparaíso, and study at URI’s partner school, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso. Professor Echevarria will also teach a new course at URI, entirely in Spanish, that will focus on innovations in sustainability in South America.

“This part of the presidential initiative is focusing on developing collaborations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics between Peru and Chile and the United States,” said Professor Echevarria, who’s been running the Spanish International Engineering Program for six years. In those six years, enrollment has grown from 50 students to more than 100.

She said she believes that in choosing URI for the President’s initiative, the federal government and participating organizations recognized the groundbreaking work and  longstanding infrastructure of URI’s International Engineering Program.

“We have been offering for many years precisely the kind of the initiatives that the ‘100,000 Strong’ program prioritizes. Internships, exchange programs and research opportunities that take students far away from our campus and give them the opportunity to work as part of an international and interdisciplinary team have been part of the International Engineering Program for more than 20 years,” she said.

In January, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined members of Rhode Island’s congressional team at the U.S. Department of State to praise URI’s Spanish International Engineering Program, Professor Echevarria, and Winifred Brownell, dean of URI’s College of Arts and Sciences.

So if you’re looking to add a little salsa to your engineering education, then you might consider taking your first steps right here.

Pictured above:  Ocean Engineering and Spanish major Lauren Schambach ’13 cheering on local soccer team Athletic Club Bilbao during her year abroad in Spain. She now works for Navatek.


Leah Eccleston fell in love with anthropology after taking just one class in the subject at URI. She said it reminded her of finding animal bones when exploring local forests as a child. Today the junior anthropology and biology major is examining fossilized skulls and pelvises in a research project on reproduction in human ancestors. She says it’s mostly about how much energy early humans put into gestation and fetal growth, but it’s also related to diet, walking gait, brain size and the shape of the birth canal.