Students can earn two degrees in one year in France and at UC

Will Mnich shares his student experience in the Aero-System Operations Program

After spending five years as a Bearcat earning an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering technology, Will Mnich decided to continue at the University of Cincinnati to earn not one, but two additional degrees in the aerospace engineering field. 

Will Mnich poses with his family at UC graduation

Will Mnich earned his bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati. Photo/provided.

Mnich has family members who work in the industry as pilots and in the military, so aerospace and defense were always on his radar. The Aero-System Operations (AESOP) Program is a collaborative degree program between UC and the University of Bordeaux Evering Institute (UBx) in France wherein students are awarded a dual diploma by the two universities. A Master of Engineering degree from UC and a Diplôme Universitaire International from Bordeaux. 

"The AESOP program is a signature program of CEAS as it provides unique opportunities for our students. There are very few programs nationally preparing students to lead and manage aviation repair and maintenance organizations. Couple that with the time spent in France learning from both faculty and practitioners and you have a program to be very proud of," said Eugene Rutz, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at CEAS. 

The university's top-ranked cooperative education (co-op) program drew Mnich to UC, and the rewarding experience he had here is what led him to stay for graduate school. Mnich chose mechanical engineering technology for his undergraduate degree because of the hands-on nature of the program. The AESOP program was an ideal next step to expand his knowledge and skills. 

"My whole life I've worked on cars and dirt bikes and stuff like that, so the hands-on portion of mechanical engineering technology was really valuable to me," Mnich said. 

AESOP is not only a resume boost, but a chance to spend a semester abroad and experience a new way of life

Will Mnich AESOP student

Mnich first heard about the AESOP program during his fourth year at UC. During the spring semester, Eugene Rutz, associate dean of graduate studies, came to his class to share details about the program with the students. Mnich's interest was piqued. After connecting with several students who had completed the program and hearing about their experiences and the benefits of AESOP, his decision was made. 

"It's not only a resume boost, but a chance to spend a semester abroad and experience a new way of life," Mnich said. 

Will Mnich (left) and another student pose in front of the sign at the University of Bordeaux in France

Will Mnich (left) spent a semester in France at the University of Bordeaux for the AESOP program. Photo/provided.

Students spend the fall semester of the dual degree program in France studying aeronautical maintenance, the spring semester in Cincinnati studying aerospace engineering, and the summer semester completing an internship. When Mnich arrived in France, he spoke little to no French and had not yet met any of his classmates, but he embraced the unknown adventure in front of him. 

"I moved over there and didn't speak French at all. I just threw myself into it," Mnich said. 

The curriculum for the semester in France centers around preparing students to lead and manage aeronautical maintenance operations. Students can choose to focus their studies in one of two specializations: structural or avionics maintenance. Mnich chose structural maintenance because the coursework better aligned with his undergraduate experience. In the structural specialization, students analyze how different aircraft components behave and why they are made of certain materials. 

Unlike a typical semester in the U.S., the course schedule at Bordeaux varied each week, in part because many professors within the program are currently working in industry. The course structure was also different than what Mnich was accustomed to in the U.S.

Mnich and others pose in front of airplane at hangar

Will Mnich (third from left) and other AESOP representatives in France pose at the airplane hangar. Photo/Provided

In France, he took two core classes as part of his structural maintenance curriculum (composite materials and non-destructive testing). Each of these two courses had three different types of class sessions. For instance, Mnich explained that first, they would have the core session for the course, which was lecture based instruction. Following that, they had the travaux dirigés (TD) and travaux pratiques (TP) sessions. 

"After the core session, we'd have the TD session which was applying the concept and the math behind it, and then we'd have the TP session which was all lab work," Mnich said. 

During the semester, Mnich took one avionics course that focused on the instruments found in the cockpit of an aircraft. In the course, students of varying education levels were able to use aircraft simulators to use and test different components within the cockpit to further understand the material in class. 

"They had some really high-level equipment that we used," Mnich said. "We could see everything in the cockpit and hook up different things to simulate the aircraft at 5,000 feet moving 200 knots, for example." 

This experience with the cockpit and flight simulators was invaluable to Mnich, whose goal is to become a pilot and fly planes. His MET undergraduate experience paired with his time in France learning more about the structural maintenance of aircraft is quickly preparing him to achieve this goal. 

I would tell anyone interested in AESOP to do it because you learn so much about yourself. It's a big opportunity for self-growth because you are so disconnected from the world you know.

Will Mnich, UC College of Engineering and Applied Science

The AESOP experience had a major personal impact on Mnich and he encourages anyone who is interested in the program to take the leap and go for it. He shared that there is such a positive outlook for the commercial aviation industry domestically and globally, making this program ideal for professional growth. 

"I would tell anyone to do it because you learn so much about yourself. It's a big opportunity for self-growth because you are so disconnected from the world you know," he said. "You get to learn a lot about different cultures, different people, and I still talk to people I met from all over the world. My biggest piece of advice is to try and learn French before you go." 

The AESOP program is a great opportunity for anyone who enjoys combining their engineering knowledge with hands-on applications. 

Want to travel abroad while earning two degrees in one year?

Learn more about the Aero-System Operations (AESOP) program at the University of Cincinnati. 

Featured image at top: Will Mnich (left) and another AESOP student pose in front of an aircraft at the hangar in France. Photo/provided. 

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