March 2024

Reprinted with permission from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul. View the original article, which was published in Northwestern Pilot, Spring 2023, No. 437, pages 23-24.

Emily Compaan

Despite its relatively young age, the Engineering program at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul has already made an impact in the local community through student projects. In addition, Northwestern’s recent accreditation by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) — retroactive to 2017 — bolsters the program’s already-strong reputation, as many scholarship-granting organizations and well-known employers are looking for the ABET seal of approval.

Several companies have approached UNW and its students to continue and complete research and projects that had previously been tabled. As part of their capstone work, seven Northwestern seniors engaged in such tasks that ranged from designing a drive-through coffee shop to three-dimensional printing of circuit boards for small electronics to a robotic sanding station. For some students, these projects earned them a job offer after graduation. For others, it was the affirmation of contributing to society and working alongside peers to accomplish a task.

While she certainly appreciated the job preparedness that came with Northwestern’s Engineering program, Emily Compaan ’22 chose UNW for the freedom to pursue her calling. Throughout Compaan’s college search, multiple universities told her that it would be impossible to combine her love of mathematics and passion for dance. At Northwestern, she found encouragement from faculty member Dr. Matthew Hyre, who promised to work with Emily to discover her mission and see it through to the end. Hyre kept his promise while, alongside his Engineering peers, maintaining a high level of excellence in the classroom and applying them to real-world problems that needed solving. In addition to being challenged intellectually at UNW, Compaan appreciated the personal and spiritual growth she received from her professors.

Emily Compaan standing with Latino man
Compaan during her long-term internship with Engineering Ministries International

Compaan’s senior project involved designing a high-temperature plastic injection molding; a product that Compaan and her Northwestern teammates delivered to a local engineering firm who had commissioned it for further development and use. Throughout the project’s development, Emily met weekly with a faculty mentor who offered guidance in not only the how-to tasks, but also in other components such as time management, setting and achieving specific project goals, and effective communication.

Meanwhile, Compaan and Hyre worked on a separate research project focused on her passions of dance and math, developing a process to track the impact of the act of jumping—and landing — on a dancer’s feet, using tools such as an accelerometer and incorporating several variables, such as the type of flooring, into account. For Compaan, the combination of a rigorous Engineering program and faculty who were willing to journey into previously unknown spaces with her produced immense fulfillment. “I’m not your typical go-into-industry student,” Compaan said. “I want to use my Northwestern experience for a bigger purpose; for something that you might not normally think of using engineering for.”

Emily’s application of an Engineering degree is not unique, nor is her intention to use it for God’s glory going forward. UNW seeks to equip and prepare its students to live out a Christ-centered worldview as alumni in their vocation. For Compaan, that meant working in Panama, Mexico, and Guatemala during her long-term internship with Engineering Ministries International (EMI). She is currently working for the aviation sector of a full-service mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering firm in downtown Minneapolis.

By Kelly Larson