Say Hallo to Enhanced Engineering and German Degree Program

Lauren Feekin (from left), Edgar Escala and Connor Heo are engineering students who have been studying German.
Photo by Matt Reynolds

Lauren Feekin (from left), Edgar Escala and Connor Heo are engineering students who have been studying German.

German automakers have been renowned for their engineering expertise since the invention of the automobile. Connor Heo is well aware of that history.

“I’m really interested in trying to make internal combustion engines even more efficient, as well as designing parts that would later find their way onto high performance vehicles,” said Heo, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering at University of Arkansas. “By studying mechanical engineering, I can kindle my passion for cars.”

Heo plans to enroll in the U of A’s new International Engineering Program, which allows students to earn undergraduate degrees in both German and engineering in five years.

In the program, students will earn a Bachelor of Science in one of eight areas of engineering or computer science and a Bachelor of Arts in German in five years.

They will spend the fourth year in Germany. In the fall, students will take engineering courses at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, one of the leading German technical universities. In the spring, students will work in paid internships at German companies.

“The program is a great way to encourage students to participate in multiple fields of study,” Heo said. “It acts as a bridge between hard science and the humanities, something I feel that employers value. Through my German studies, I can learn a new language, which I always enjoy doing, and also make myself more marketable to the car companies I really respect.”

The College of Engineering, in collaboration with the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, launched the International Engineering Program last fall.

“We modeled it on a very successful dual-degree program at the University of Rhode Island that boasts 100 percent job placement for its graduates,” said Kathleen Condray, an associate professor of German in Fulbright College.

“We have always had a substantial number of engineering and business students in our German classes,” Condray said. “Knowing German gives you another skill set when looking for jobs. In a global economy it is expected that one knows multiple languages. It gives our students a tactical advantage.”

Bryan Hill, assistant dean of student recruitment and diversity, honors and international programs in the College of Engineering, said, “Engineering continues to be in demand throughout the world and there is a need for engineers fluent in multiple languages. The new German/Engineering program is just the start to the new International Engineering Program with subsequent languages to follow.”

The German economy is the strongest in Europe and the powerhouse of the European Union. As a country, Germany has traditionally led engineering fields with firms such as BASF, Bayer, BMW, Mercedes, Merck, Porsche, and SAP.

“German firms also invest heavily in the United States and Arkansas,” Condray said. “There are 23 German-owned companies that provide more than 1,500 jobs in Arkansas, from automotive parts to power tools to plastics and steel. In addition to knowing the language, this program will provide our students an understanding of the German corporate culture.”

Edgar Escala, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, is working to receive a minor in German when he graduates in the fall. Escala, who is from Panama, said speaking German “opens a lot of doors.”

“German is an important language in the business world,” he said.

Lauren Feekin, a senior who will graduate with degrees in German and biomedical engineering in the fall, said she also would have enrolled in the program if it existed when she came to the U of A.

“I am interested in working in Germany or in the United States for a German company,” Feekin said. “I think taking German has given me more confidence in working anywhere in the world, not just German or English speaking countries. The German department really encourages study abroad, and that opportunity opened my eyes to how easy is it to travel and communicate with others, which only increased my desire to work abroad.”

U of A senior Holly Holmes-Smith, like Feekin, will graduate in the fall with degrees in German and chemical engineering. Homes-Smith, who came to the U of A when she was just 13, has studied abroad in Heidelberg, Germany.

“The great thing about languages is that they use the part of the brain that is associated with creativity and deep thought,” Holmes-Smith said. “I enrolled in German because it creates character, develops both sides of my brain, and it will create more job opportunities either in the United States or in Germany. Plus it is also fun.”

Condray said Arkansas has many outstanding high school German programs that will provide students who are interested in the International Engineering Program with language skills. Those without access to German classes can begin learning the language at the U of A.

On a related note, the university will host a German immersion event on Feb. 27 for high school students who are interested in science, mathematics, engineering and technology fields. They will take part in experiments in solar energy, bioplastics and engineering, all conducted in German.

Go to Research Frontiers to read more about the program.



Bryan Hill, assistant dean
College of Engineering

Kathleen Condray, associate professor of German
Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
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