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Dayton Engineer

Mechanical engineering student embraces Marianist mission and engineering experiences beyond the classroom

By Mary Harbach, School of Engineering Cooperative Education

Central to a Catholic, Marianist education is its aim to educate the whole person — mind, body and spirit. Marianist institutions hope that through this unique intellectual process, students may ascertain their true vocations. Many University of Dayton students are influenced by this mission and mindset, and several integrate it into their lives. And, a number of students fully adopt and are formed by this mission.

This fall’s School of Engineering Cooperative Education spotlight student is Nathan Brown: A mechanical engineering major and a future entrepreneur from West Chester, OH, whose journey at the University has been filled with success both inside and outside the classroom.

As a first-year student, Brown attended the University's career fair to practice and gain valuable experience with recruiters to secure a co-op placement for the following fall. Most recruiters simply told him to come back in the fall; however, admiring his initiative, the recruiters at GE Aviation offered Brown an interview and told him that they would defer his start date a semester in order to secure his talents.

After securing his co-op with GE Aviation, Brown made it a priority to get international experience during the summer following his first year.

Having never left the country before, traveling the world seemed somewhat daunting, but it was an opportunity and challenge that would lead to immense personal growth. With the assistance of both the Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service Learning (ETHOS Center) and study abroad offices, Brown made these aspirations a reality by pursuing two international trips in the summer of 2017. 

Through ETHOS, Brown participated in a 10-day breakout trip in Antigua, Guatemala, working on water filtration systems, aquaponics tanks, and rocket stoves to improve food and water access for locals.

Later that summer, he traveled to Europe as a member of the “Business in Dublin/London” trip to take classes for his business minor while exploring Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Once he returned to campus in fall 2017, these humanitarian and global experiences led Brown to the Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation (IACT), a certificate program with the vision of innovation, applied creativity, entrepreneurship and community engagement for the Common Good. Using his mechanical engineering experience, he explored new problem-solving approaches working in IACT's transdisciplinary environment, which disrupts the way people and communities approach issues. 

His ETHOS, study abroad and IACT experiences occurred before his May 2018 co-op experience at GE Aviation, where he had a double rotation as an instrumentation design engineer in Cincinnati, OH. Since then, he served as a manufacturing engineer in Hooksett, NH (summer 2019), and due to a summer cut short by COVID-19, a technical intern (summer 2020). Brown said that he was afforded tremendous opportunities to learn and grow at GE Aviation and received meaningful, hands-on work.

Beyond study abroad experiences and co-op rotations, Brown has been heavily involved on campus as well. He currently serves as a President’s Emissary, a Marianist Leadership Scholar and a brother of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He also actively participates in Campus Ministry events and retreats and has lived in intentional faith house communities during his junior and senior years.

After four rotations with GE Aviation, Brown chose not to pursue full-time or leadership track positions with them. He said, “Early on in my undergraduate studies I realized I was not a ‘stereotypical engineer.’ I am extremely extroverted and people oriented, and I knew I did not want to solve technical problems for a living. I always viewed my engineering degree as proof that I was willing to solve challenging problems and work collaboratively towards solutions.”

It was this mindset that led him to find the University of Notre Dame’s ESTEEM (Engineering, Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Master's Program) program. ESTEEM focuses on technical and business skills to create the next generation of tech entrepreneurs and startups. In May 2021, Brown will begin his graduate journey. This program will allow him to cultivate his past experiences and adventures at the University of Dayton and prepare him for a unique, successful career.

Brown said, “Be willing to try new, uncomfortable experiences and seek out mentors. If not for the multitude of unique experiences I had at UD and the extremely supportive faculty and staff that counseled me along my journey, I would not have heard about ESTEEM or participated in half the things that I have done as an undergrad. I am fortunate that the friends, professors and family that I have made at UD are willing to pick me up when I am down, challenge the man I am becoming and push me to be my best. Find those people and keep them close.”

Brown fully immersed himself into the University of Dayton opportunities. In the spirit of a Marianist education, he educated the whole person and related it back to discovering his vocation. Brown will graduate from UD with the knowledge and the foundation to better lead and serve for the Common Good.

Congratulations Nathan!

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