Dual-degree program brings double the benefits for engineering studies

A dual-degree program in engineering offered by Ripon College is a little-known opportunity with a big payoff. It had previously been cancelled because of a lack of popularity, but it has been brought back, and Akash Sen ’16 of Waukegan, Illinois, is the first Ripon student to participate since the program’s revival.

“It’s a great program; you get two degrees,” says Leah Simon, assistant professor of physics and head of the program. “There’s been a lot of interest, but no one has tried it out until now.”

The program is a collaboration between Ripon College and Washington University in St. Louis. Students attend Ripon for the first three to four years of the program, then transfer to Washington for an additional two years of study in one of several fields of engineering available at Washington. At the end, students get degrees from both schools: an engineering degree and a liberal arts degree in any field. Ron Laue, assistant dean of Washington University, visits Ripon every few years to inform students about the opportunity. During his last visit, he sparked the interest of Sen.

“When I came to Ripon College, I was interested in studying engineering,” Sen says. “Since I could not officially major in engineering at Ripon, I decided to research other opportunities. I found out about the dual-degree program and eventually Ron Laue visited Ripon. He provided a lot of insight about the program, and I knew it was for me.”

At Ripon, Sen studied physics. Currently, at Washington, he is studying biomedical engineering, which covers many things from prosthetics to artificial hearts.

The program brings more creativity into the engineering field, Simon says. “A student comes to Ripon and gets a liberal arts degree, which helps them to become better writers and communicators. It puts certain tools in their tool box and helps them to think in different ways.”

She says students can flourish more easily at Ripon, with smaller class sizes and more one-on-one attention, making them more prepared for Washington.

Akash says, “The program is a great opportunity for students that have an interest in any engineering field. It is very different studying in St. Louis. Going to a bigger school has its pros and cons. I definitely miss the smaller class sizes that I had at Ripon, but there are ample resources and research equipment available at Wash U.

“Since I am interested in biomedical engineering, it is nice to have faculty in the field who allow students to do research in their labs. It was a big change going from a school where I knew almost everyone to a place where I barely know anyone in a single class. Overall, I am happy with my decision and appreciate the experience that I’ve had at both schools.”

Megan Sohr ’18
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

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