It was a long and winding road for Maxime “Max” Boudeau, originally from Haiti, to Penn State Berks. He will earn his baccalaureate degree in mechanical engineering at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7, during the college’s commencement ceremony at the Santander Arena.
Boudeau explains that growing up in Haiti, his parents always stressed the importance of earning a college education. They did not have the same opportunities that were available to him and his siblings and they wanted their children to have a better life.
“My family was big on education,” he explained. In fact, his father worked as a high school math and physics teacher, and went on to earn his baccalaureate degree in civil engineering while Boudeau was a first-year student at Berks.
“My parents were dedicated to making our lives better,” he explains.
While in Haiti, Boudeau attended a private American school from eighth to 12th grade. After graduation, he enrolled in college courses for a semester while working as a substitute elementary school teacher. Then he moved to the United States in December 2016, with the ultimate goal of attending Penn State – his lifelong dream.
“I wanted to come to Penn State because it’s a world-renowned university,” he commented, going on to explain that a degree from a Haitian university is only recognized in Haiti, while a Penn State degree is recognized all over the world.
Boudeau began his studies at Reading Area Community College (RACC) in 2017. That’s where he met James McCarty, assistant director of transfer admissions at Penn State Berks. After he earned his associate degree in engineering from RACC, McCarty guided him through the steps to become a Penn State Berks student.
He credits McCarty with helping him to navigate the Penn State system, and they have become good friends. He also credits Antoinette “Nettie” Matz, assistant director of financial aid, for helping him to find and receive scholarships, and his academic adviser, Rungun Nathan, professor of engineering and chair of the mechanical engineering degree program, in addition to many other faculty and staff members who helped him along the way.
“The professors and staff members were great. They always reached out to see how I was doing,” he comments.
Boudeau adds that he actually changed his intended major from industrial engineering to mechanical engineering so he could earn his degree at Berks, explaining that he lives with uncle in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, and wanted to stay close to home.
During his time at Penn State Berks, Boudeau was part of a team of four senior mechanical engineering students to receive the Student Enterprise Award, the college’s version of "Shark Tank." Students present their ideas for a business startup, and the winning teams receive funding. Their team received the award for the product they were developing: a microfluidic bandage that could be used to heal wounds such as third-degree lesions.
“Penn State Berks has prepared me well for the future ... The mechanical engineering program is great. I gained experience in project management and working in a team."
“Penn State Berks has prepared me well for the future,” stated Boudeau. “The mechanical engineering program is great. I gained experience in project management and working in a team. I learned everything I need to know to enter the job market.”
What advice would he give to other students? “You have to push forward and work hard to get what you deserve. Expect nothing to be handed to you. The journey was long but successful and joyful.”
While at Penn State Berks, Boudeau worked in Tully’s, the campus cafeteria, and was an orientation leader. He also played rugby until he was sidelined with an injury. Continuing to play while injured resulted in a torn meniscus, requiring surgery.
“I got hurt before COVID, and I waited to get checked. I’m Haitian – we don’t go to doctors,” he laughs.
Boudeau’s first trip to the United States was after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010. His father did not want him and his brother to miss a year in school, so he sent them to stay with their uncle in Wernersville and attend Wilson Middle School.
What does the future hold for Boudeau? He plans to stay in the United States for now and apply for engineering positions. He states that he wants to work in smart manufacturing –Industry 4.0 – and that he likes the idea of building something with a company like Boeing. He would also like to build his own automobile or motorcycle one day.
About the Mechanical Engineering program
Penn State Berks, the leading engineering college in Berks County, is one of only four Penn State campuses to offer the bachelor of science in mechanical engineering, which is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. ABET is the global leader in accreditation of engineering, engineering technology, computing, and applied science programs.