West Virginia University has a vast reach. Whether it’s through programs or word-of-mouth, the diversity and welcoming community are huge draws for students around the world.

That was particularly appealing to two female international students who were interested in pursuing an engineering degree.

Karen Flores De Jesus and Maria Torres Arango graduated from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources in December, Flores with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and Torres Arango with a master’s in aerospace engineering.

Fewer women than men seek science, technology, engineering and mathematical careers. Even fewer pursue the mechanical and aerospace engineering track. But thanks to the engineering college’s community program, Flores made WVU her home for her graduate education.

WVU first came to Flores, in Querertaro, Mexico, via an interchange program in the summer of 2008. She was selected to participate in the program through the mechanical and aerospace engineering department.

The program allows WVU students to study in Querertaro and Querertaro students to study at WVU. The program sets up projects for each team to work on in their new locations.

Victor Mucino, associate chair for education and professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, directs the program and was impressed by Flores’ capabilities, performance and aptitude for technical work. The two remained in contact, which was the catalyst for Flores to study at WVU.

“He offered me a full assistantship to come to WVU and study in the master’s degree program upon the completion of the interchange,” Flores said. She was awarded a teaching assistant position in the college; because of that, Flores was able to seize her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

WVU found Torres Arango, a native of Medellin, Colombia, through less conventional methods: by word of mouth.

Torres Arango learned of WVU through classmates at Pontificia Bolivariana University in Medellin. She was told of the great opportunities WVU had to offer and decided to apply.

“Luckily, I got accepted,” she said. “I feel this experience has changed my life.”

Torres Arango, lauds the friendliness of WVU students and faculty. “I have always felt I am welcome,” she said. “The faculty is always willing to share their time and knowledge. The staff is also there to help you in any way possible.”

Because of the wonderful experience, Torres Arango plans to continue her studies at WVU, working toward her doctorate in aerospace engineering.

“The experience at WVU has broadened my expectations and has also brought a new level of conscience of the responsibilities and opportunities I have as an engineer,” she said.

Mucino praised both, noting, “Being a woman in a field that is predominantly male and being from foreign countries could have been seen as too much to overcome. Both Maria and Karen have proven to themselves and to those around them that they have just as much potential as anyone else in their field. They are wonderful examples of what international students can achieve at WVU.”

Both Flores and Torres Arango stayed in the United States after graduation. While Torres Arango continues at WVU, Flores was offered a position at the Schaeffler Group in Troy, Mich., as an application engineer in the chassis division.



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4086, Mary.Dillon@mail.wvu.edu

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