Commencement 2018: URI engineering graduate studies in Chile, Spain

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Daniel Levesque
Daniel Levesque. URI Photo by Randy Osga

KINGSTON, R.I., April 13, 2018—Daniel Levesque’s father had a wish for his son as he was battling prostate cancer: Stay close to home.

Levesque did, but his dad never got to see him off. He died five days before Levesque’s 18th birthday and two months before he enrolled at the University of Rhode Island.

This spring, Levesque will graduate from the five-year Spanish International Engineering program with degrees in Spanish and mechanical engineering, and a minor in leadership studies. He knows his dad would be proud; his mother has assured him of that.

“I’m glad I stayed nearby,” he says. “I absolutely love URI. It has given me an incredible family. I’ve met friends I’ll keep for life.”

As a boy in North Kingstown, he spent his days hanging out with his best buddy and dad, Dennis Levesque, a contractor who built houses and the Fenner Hill Golf Club, where Levesque worked on the grounds. “We were close,” says Levesque.

A gifted math and science student at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Levesque knew early on he wanted to study engineering in college and that he’d find a school near his dad.

“All my teachers said I should look into engineering,” says Levesque. “I liked to problem-solve. It seemed like a good fit.”

The Kingston campus was also familiar. Levesque had spent summers practicing on URI soccer fields as a center back for the Rams F.C., a premier soccer club in Rhode Island.

Only days into his freshman year he knew he was in the right place. He appreciated his challenging engineering classes and also discovered a talent for leadership after participating in URI’s Leadership Institute. Over the years, he’s developed those skills, most recently as a teaching assistant at the Center for Student Leadership Development, where he organizes student retreats and workshops.

Study abroad has expanded his global awareness. During a high school trip sponsored by the Catholic church, Levesque built a house atop a mountain in Peru and volunteered at an orphanage. The experience piqued his interest in world travel.

During winter break of his sophomore year at URI, he spent 10 days in Valparaiso, Chile, designing a sustainable energy system for a fish market. “It was my first time using Spanish as a technical language,” he says. “It was an eye-opener. I learned I needed to learn and grow quite a bit.”

After three semesters back at URI, he went overseas again, this time to the Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain for six months, taking language and engineering classes, all taught in Spanish.

After that, he interned, also for six months, as a project manager for SEAT, an international car manufacturer in Barcelona. The experience changed his life. Barcelona was a vibrant, culturally-rich city, and he met engineers from all over the world. “I made a ton of friends, who were mostly German, which was hilarious.”

One memory he’ll never forget is a soccer game in the jam-packed Barcelona stadium between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona won. “When Barcelona scored in the 94th minute the crowd went so crazy they recorded a small earthquake in town,” says Levesque.

After graduation, Levesque will look for work along the East Coast. He has his heart set on a job as a project manager.

“I’d go crazy if I had to sit behind a computer eight hours a day,” he says. One thing is certain: He’ll find a high school soccer team to coach. His knees are shot, but his love for the game endures.