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A.B. engineering major Keon West ’06 (Morton, Pa.) added breadth to his education by gaining significant project management experience in an internship at Air Products.

West’s work experience at the Fortune 500 company came via the Engineering and Policy Internship course in Lafayette’s distinctive A.B. engineering program. The College’s bachelor of arts program in engineering is a liberal education for a technological age, giving students a broad education that encompasses the physical & social sciences and the humanities.

The course gave West the opportunity to serve as a project technician for Air Products, where he did project planning and coordination for two installations, a cryogenic lab that uses nitrogen to break down polymers and a demonstration lab for its frozen food packaging operation.

“In the cryogenic lab they wanted a new piping and monitoring system that keeps temperature and pressure more constant,” says West, a member of the lacrosse team. “I called vendors to get prices on equipment, took measurements for the piping around the room, and did research on monitoring and exhaust systems.

“[Air Products] needed a new food demonstration lab so I helped them locate a suitable site where it could be constructed. I took measurements, talked with the chemical engineers on the team to find out what they needed in the lab – equipment, gases, valves, benches, sink, and all the things that will have to go there – contacted vendors for quotes on piping and contractors for quotes on construction.”

A.B. engineering is designed for students like West who want to work in a technical environment, but do not want to practice as design engineers.

As soon as he discovered the program, West knew Lafayette was for him. Though he has wanted to pursue an engineering degree since ninth grade, he wants to be involved on the business side of engineering.

“Keon has brought a lot of credibility to the A.B. engineering program at Lafayette,” reports Dave Taschler ’75, business manager for services and equipment at Air Products and West’s supervisor for the internship.

Taschler points out that the skills needed in business go beyond technical knowledge, something the A.B. engineering program enhances through its broad curriculum.

“In industry you have to develop a relationship with a variety of people whom you haven’t met to get things done,” says Taschler. “You have to learn to work through influence to covey what is important so that they do what you need to have done rather than the many other things that they have before them.

“When people talk about diversity, usually it means race, gender, ethnic background, and such. But at Air Products we’re trying to define it as diversity of thought. We value diversity of thinking [to solve business problems], and it comes across in lots of ways. The A.B. engineering program is a clear demonstration of developing diversity of thought.”

Valuable for his future career as a project manager or consultant, West’s internship gave him significant insights.

“I learned when and how to ask questions,” he says. “I worked with 12 to 15 people, and they had serious things they had to work on. I saw that you need to know something about everything to be successful. It was a great experience and it really built my confidence.”

In addition to playing lacrosse, West is a member of Association of Black Collegians and Brothers of Lafayette. He graduated from Springfield High School.

Categorized in: Academic News