Willkommen! German Students Explore LSU Engineering Through Fulbright Program

The German Fulbright students stand in front of a Saturn V rocket during their visit to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss.BATON ROUGE – Though 5,000 miles separate Louisiana from Germany, the fundamentals of engineering are not lost in translation.

For three weeks this spring, 24 German engineering students resided on LSU’s campus to learn about the College of Engineering through the German-American Fulbright Program. The program allows students to experience what studying and living in Baton Rouge would be like professionally and culturally.

Leading the troop of Fulbright students is LSU Academic Programs Abroad Director Harald Leder, a German native who has called Baton Rouge home for decades. For the past three years, Leder has taken them under his wing to show them what the College of Engineering has to offer in hopes they will return to LSU to continue their studies. He also serves as a Fulbright advisor for students interested in receiving a Fulbright Fellowship.

“Warren Hull [retired LSU instructor and former director of the Chevron Center for Engineering Education] was instrumental in bringing this on board,” Leder said. “He had all of the connections and really excellent ideas and basically organized all of our excursions. We were able to bring the business college on board to coordinate the two colleges, and now we have a pretty solid program.”

The College of Engineering and APA collaborated with the E. J. Ourso College of Business—working with Ye-Sho Chen, Franz Lohrke and Ed Watson—to expand the initiative to include the Leaders in Entrepreneurship Program. Leder said the idea is that LSU hosts the Fulbright students and provides them with an introduction on how entrepreneurship fits into their future careers in engineering.

One way the program does this is to partner them with students from the E. J. Ourso College as part of Start-Up Weekend, where they work together to develop a project and business plan.

“It was really cool to get to know other Americans and work together with them,” said Nora Gourmelon, a computer science senior from Aalen, Germany. “I liked that.”

“It was fun to see the different approach people here have to studying,” said Laura Heine, an industrial engineering junior from Berlin who had never been to the United States prior to the Fulbright Program.

The students, who come from universities across Germany, have a full itinerary that includes lectures and presentations in Patrick F. Taylor Hall; visits with engineering clubs; site visits to the Center for Advanced Micro Devices, Innovation Park, and the Water Campus; a tour of LSU’s campus and Tiger Stadium; and jaunts to Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and BASF in Geismar.

German Fulbright students in front of LSU sign“There was a lot of planning,” Hull said. “Many of the local entrepreneurs we visited were engineering graduates I had come to know, so that’s why I continue volunteering to do this.”

“It was extremely interesting to visit both NASA and the CAMD Center,” said Vincent Stepputat, an automotive engineering junior from Friedberg, Germany. “Usually you don’t get in there and speak to those people, but we just walked right in and got to experience everything. It was great.”

Computer science junior and Munich-native Alexander Ludwig echoed Stepputat’s sentiment.

“My favorite place was NASA,” he said. “It was pretty impressive to see how the rockets are built.”

“One of the things that was really impressive to the German students was viewing the capstone projects,” Hull said. “They got to meet with current students and sit in on a capstone class. They then received a detailed presentation from three of the teams. We had alumni come back and talk about their experience in the capstone—how it fostered teamwork, encouraged entrepreneurship, and helped them to develop leadership skills. It’s something they don’t have in their curricula in Germany. They were very appreciative in learning about that.”

In an effort to ensure the Fulbright students were comfortable and experienced everything possible, LSU Society of Peer Mentors Staff Advisor Adrienne Steele implemented the Buddy Program, which partners each Fulbright student with a mentor for the three-week period.

“My favorite part of the whole program was the Buddy Program,” Heine said. “I was surprised at how much effort people put in and how much time they spent with us. They showed us a lot, like the capstone project. My Buddy was an engineer as well, so we’re definitely going to stay in touch. It was a good match.”

“The people here are so kind,” Gourmelon said. “They approach you and talk to you, and the professors are very accessible.”

The students’ experiences with their Buddies extended beyond campus to include cultural activities such as stops at the Louisiana State Capitol and State Museum, a jazz brunch in the French Quarter, an Atchafalaya swamp tour, a visit to Avery Island, plantation home tours along the Mississippi, and a drop-in at Baton Rouge Distilling.

“The biggest difference between Germany and Louisiana is the culture and food,” Gourmelon said. “The crawfish were very spicy, but I liked the etouffée.”

“I must admit, I’ve never eaten that much in three weeks,” Ludwig said. “The food is so good here.”

Overall, the Fulbright students expressed interest in not only coming back to the U.S. but visiting LSU again and possibly applying for a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship.

“I’ve always thought about doing an exchange year or semester but wasn’t really sure about it,” Stepputat said. “This was a really compressed three-week program, so it was the perfect way for me to find out if this is something I want to do in the future.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I want to come back,” Heine said. “I would love to stay in this area a bit more.”

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Contact: Libby Haydel
Communications Specialist
225-578-4840 (o)