Jan Helge Bøhn, associate professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2009 Alumni Award for Excellence in International Education.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in International Education is presented annually to a Virginia Tech faculty or staff member who has had a significant impact on international education at the university. Selection is based upon contributions to the internationalization of Virginia Tech, the impact on students, the impact on the campus and community, the significance of the initiative, and the sustainability of the initiative. Awardees receive $2,000.

Through his unique vision and commitment, Bøhn has prepared students for the global marketplace through a number of Virginia Tech partnerships with institutions around the world.

“He has put Virginia Tech on the world map in the area of global engineering education, and his efforts have received widespread recognition and praise for an impressive number of professional colleagues all over the world,” said Kenneth Ball, L.S. Randolph Professor of Mechanical Engineering and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “I can think of no other person in the College of Engineering today who has made such a broad and far-reaching impact using technology and innovation to fulfill a vision that was truly ahead of its time.”

The centerpiece of Bøhn’s international education work is a Virginia Tech partnership with Technische Universität Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt) in Germany that includes a senior-year study abroad experience, a dual degree option, and paid research programs. Ball described this as “the gold standard for international partnerships and a model for others to emulate.”

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1993, Bøhn works with colleagues at Virginia Tech and TU Darmstadt to provide language training to prepare students for their time overseas, including a five-week immersion summer program in Germany with host families. Bøhn has made these education abroad programs accessible by seeking and obtaining funding through scholarships and grants.

In addition, Bøhn has created two new engineering design courses that collaborate on engineering design projects with Howard University, TU Darmstadt, the Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Mexico, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

“Students learn about different considerations in product design for different markets, and how that relates to the global operations of industry,” Ball said. “Student teams consist of multinational groups, and they meet in real time to work on their projects, necessitating the need to work around multiple time zones and other factors such as language and culture.”

Bøhn earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in computer and systems engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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