Engineering students benefit from Vanderbilt and Auburn partnerships

Nov. 8, 2013
Contact: Brian Todd, Center for International Education

A unique partnership is providing two Maryville College international students with an important advantage: experiencing the benefits of the Maryville College liberal arts curriculum while completing an engineering degree from a top-ranked university.

Peizhen Sun of China and Isaac Mbimi of Cameroon are both majoring in engineering through the College’s 3-2 engineering program. They completed the first three years of their engineering programs in May, and they are continuing their programs at Vanderbilt University and Auburn University.

At first, Sun did not plan to study engineering. He came to Maryville College as an international business major, but he decided that he wanted to take more math and science courses. His academic advisor, Professor of Management Dr. John Gallagher, suggested that he consider the 3-2 engineering program and introduced him to Dr. Maria Siopsis, associate professor of mathematics and coordinator of the 3-2 engineering program.

“I changed my major after my first semester,” Sun said.

Despite getting a late start, Sun was able to complete the first three years of his program at MC and expects to graduate from Vanderbilt in May of 2015. He said the rigorous academic curriculum at Maryville has prepared him well for his two years at Vanderbilt.

“At Maryville College, I learned how to study and how to be a good student,” Sun said. “I participated in study groups and other academic support services. When I went to Vanderbilt, I knew how to access support services and how to request assistance from my professors. Maryville helped me to adapt my study style for university study in the U.S.

“At Maryville, the classes are a high standard and professors are professional and are very strict in their expectations, so the transition to Vanderbilt is easy for me.”

Siopsis said that there are several advantages to the Maryville College 3-2 engineering program, including curriculum and environment.

“The math and science courses at Maryville are similar to those at engineering schools, but at Maryville, students also develop interpersonal and communication skills that make them stand out,” the professor said. “Additionally, the fact that Maryville is a small school means that the faculty is very engaged with the students. That not only helps them in the classroom but it helps them with other opportunities such as getting internships. Finally, students have an opportunity to take on leadership roles inside and outside the classroom, and these opportunities develop important skills that will make them very good candidates for jobs later on.”

Sun said he is glad that he started his studies at Maryville College first.

“I met some many good friends and learned many different things through the wide-ranging curriculum, and I definitely benefited from the fundamental learning provided by liberal arts education,” he said.

Mbimi, whose initial major was computer science, had always planned to study engineering, but he wasn’t sure how the process worked. He discovered Maryville College through his cousin, who was attending high school in Tennessee and living with a host family that told her about the College.

“I applied to several other colleges, but Maryville College answered my questions fastest,” Mbimi said. “Also, the cost of living in Tennessee is more affordable than some of the other locations.”

Like Sun, Mbimi emphasizes the strong academic standards at Maryville College, but he also believes that the opportunity to develop leadership skills will be critical to his success at Auburn – and that demonstrated leadership will lead to success in the job market and as a professional.

“Maryville encourages leadership development.” Mbimi said. “This leadership focus will help me be successful at Auburn. I have already contacted the Association of Black Engineers and the African Student Association at Auburn. Maryville has prepared me to take leadership to another level at Auburn as I apply it to a large university campus environment.”

Siopsis also understands the importance of leadership development. She explains that the Maryville College environment gave Mbimi a “chance to really shine in leadership roles in and out of class due to the small community.”

Upon graduation, Sun and Mbimi will receive their bachelor of arts degrees from Maryville College and bachelor of science in engineering degrees from Vanderbilt and Auburn respectively. Maryville College has formal dual-degree arrangements with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn., the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., and Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

For more details about the Maryville College 3-2 engineering program »

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.