A degree program at Oregon State University-Cascades is drawing students not only from the university’s mother campus in Corvallis, but from around the world.
This school year, which ends with graduation Saturday, six international students transferred to the new Bend campus to earn degrees in energy systems engineering. The students come from around the world: Indonesia, Myanmar, Russia, China and Kazakhstan.
The program isn’t offered at Corvallis and is only the fourth of its kind in the United States to receive full accreditation from the body that accredits college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.
Robin Feuerbacher, an assistant professor in energy systems engineering, started the program seven years ago when OSU-Cascades operated out of the Central Oregon Community College campus. OSU-Cascades opened its own campus on SW Chandler Avenue last fall.
Feuerbacher stepped down as head of the program a year ago to oversee the new program leader’s transition because he will be retiring at the end of this term.
Feuerbacher knew the energy systems engineering degree would attract students from other states, but he didn’t realize it would attract people from around the world. It has, from the beginning.
Agustinus Lawandy, 21, from Indonesia, started attending OSU in Corvallis in 2015.
The energy systems engineering program offered at OSU-Cascades is the reason he decided to attend OSU, he said. Before leaving his home country, Lawandy was studying at the university level, mostly in applied physics. But for that to translate into a career, Lawandy would have had to continue studying for an “umpteenth” year he said, and then apply for grants again and again to sustain pay for his work.
“I was curious about energy,” Lawandy said, adding that with this degree, there are a wide variety of jobs available, including in energy consulting.
The focus of energy system engineering is saving energy, according to Feuerbacher. At OSU-Cascades, the students seeking the degree study mechanical, industrial and some electrical engineering. They also learn how to assess return on investment to see what kind of energy system engineering adjustments are worth the cost.
“Because of that basis in those three engineering fields, it’s a really flexible degree,” Feuerbacher said. Students who graduate the program have the potential to become energy consultants; industrial, mechanical or electrical engineers; project engineers; and much more.
What Lawandy especially liked about the program is that it doesn’t just focus on engineering — it also teaches students about business.
Lawandy’s fellow international student and roommate, Soe Wai Lyian Toe, 25, from Rangoon, Myanmar, said he also loves the business of the energy systems engineering program.
“I find this program an asset,” Toe said.
The two met and became friends in Corvallis, Toe said, adding he knew Lawandy was also in the energy systems engineering program.
“Corvallis was fun,” Lawandy said. “I didn’t study much there. … People here are way more mature than at Corvallis.”
Lawandy has become more invested in his studies since arriving at OSU-Cascades, and has enjoyed the small class sizes.
Outside of class, he’s become more involved, too. Lawandy serves on the school’s student fee committee, where he earns a stipend to help manage about $600,000 in student money. Lawandy said he would like to see more student input, and is trying to think of ways to get that.
“They don’t care much until it affects them directly,” Lawandy said. “I try to get people active, and I know what I do affects the whole school, I know, I feel it.”
In addition to the student fee committee, Lawandy serves on the board of the directors of the Oregon Student Association, a group that acts on behalf of the well-being of students, and works in OSU-Cascades’ research assistant program and for Flonomix, a Hillsboro-based engineering services company. An engineer at the company gives Lawandy problems each week, from simple to hard. The work relates to what he’s studying, Lawandy said, adding that he likes how much he’s learning.
“The most important part of engineering is a good sense, right?” Lawandy said. “A good sense of how the physical world around us behaves.”
In the future, Lawandy would like to work in energy systems or computer science.
Toe said when he first arrived at OSU in Corvallis, he didn’t realize he would have to move campuses for his junior year to study in the energy systems engineering program. At that time, before OSU-Cascades became its own four-year university, students had to complete their first two years elsewhere. While many local students did so at Central Oregon Community College, international students didn’t have that opportunity because the college didn’t accept international students.
“After I arrived here, I don’t mind it,” Toe said, chuckling. He’s since tried mountain biking, hiking and snowboarding and even took a three-day canoeing trip organized by the university.
Toe said the different feel at OSU-Cascades compared with the main OSU campus goes beyond smaller class sizes in Bend. He loves being able to poke his head into the offices of instructors whose doors are literally open.
“At the OSU main campus you can’t get that,” Toe said.
Feuerbacher, who has had both Lawandy and Toe in his classes and first met them on the Corvallis campus when they were freshmen, said he knows that to be true of Toe.
“Yesterday he said he just came by to give me a hug since I’m retiring,” Feuerbacher said.
Feuerbacher said it’s a “delight” to have the international students in the classroom because of the enthusiasm and diverse perspectives they bring.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, email@example.com