BMW cruises onto URI campus Monday to recruit students from International Engineering Program

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KINGTON, R.I., March 9, 2016—A BMW cruised onto the University of Rhode Island campus on Monday, a sparkling white sports car with a top speed of 155 miles per hour. But don’t worry. It never moved.

The hybrid car—a BMW i8, to be exact—was parked outside the International Engineering Program’s buildings on Upper College Road for the day while BMW representatives interviewed engineering and business students for internships.

It was BMW’s first visit to the Kingston campus and, if crowd size is a measure of enthusiasm, probably not the company’s last. Dozens of students, mostly from the International Engineering Program and International Business Program, turned out for the interviews, and many posed for a photograph with the car later.

“It’s very special for BMW to be here,” said IEP director Sigrid Berka, who organized the visit. “BMW is the No. 1 desired employer in Germany. I’m very happy to host them.”

The award-winning 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. The program is thriving: nearly all of the graduates find jobs, including some with BMW.

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.

Heaphy and Sargent told the students that 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 during his time at URI. “Several hours a day in this job you’re conversing with your partners overseas.”

The BMW representatives interviewed students in the morning and afternoon for internships, which are paid and last six months. What are they looking for? Enthusiasm, enthusiasm, enthusiasm.

Later in the day, a group of students braved the chilly weather to pose with the car, which, in case you’re wondering, can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 4 seconds and sells for just over $140,000.

“I’m a car enthusiast,” said John Brehany, of Holden, Mass., who interviewed for an internship and is 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. “So cool,” he said. And so is the IEP. “It kept me here at URI,” he said. “It’s a great program, and job placement is 100 percent. You can’t beat that.”

Pictured above: Students gather around a BMW i8 parked outside the International Engineering Program’s building on Upper College Road at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.