As a boy growing up in Ghana, Walter Kansoriwula delighted in taking apart radios and fixing up bicycles.
He wanted to figure out how things work, and viewing his hobbies was like gazing into a crystal ball that showed his future.
“I always wanted to do engineering as a kid,” Kansoriwula said. “I didn’t know it was called engineering, but I’ve always been someone who likes learning by doing.”
Tinkering with household objects wasn’t Kansoriwula’s only interest. He was an adventurer at heart and wanted to see what the world had to offer.
That meant leaving his family’s farm and studying overseas in the United States as a foreign exchange student in high school — an experience that left such a positive impression that he came back to the U.S. after high school to pursue higher education at Ivy Tech Community College.
Kansoriwula wanted to study engineering. Columbus, Indiana, promised a perfect storm of opportunities to chase that dream. He was familiar with the people and the community from his high school exchange program, a Fortune 500 engine company was headquartered in the city, and he had local access to an affordable college education that offered the program he wanted to study and a pathway to a career.
An adventure for education
But first, he had to leave Ghana. Again.
Kansoriwula came to the U.S. at the age of 17. A junior in high school, he studied for a year at Columbus East as an exchange student and returned to Ghana to finish his high school education.
Ghana is located in West Africa with its southern border on the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean. The country’s population is estimated at 27 million, but the areas where Kansoriwula was raised and went to school were small with populations around 20,000.
His father farmed crops and livestock, an agricultural way of life that Kansoriwula was expected to continue. Technology was not as ubiquitous as in the United States.
“We had no computers. Just radios with cassette tapes,” Kansoriwula recalled. “Computers are not an everyday thing an office worker uses.”
Kansoriwula sought something different. His curiosity led him to take advantage of the student exchange program, which gave him a taste of the potential held by earning a college education in the United States.
When he informed his family that he wanted to return to the U.S., they were shocked and concerned about what would happen to him.
“It was an adventure for them and for me, too,” Kansoriwula said.
‘Conscientious about his work’
Kansoriwula landed back in Columbus and stayed with a friend’s family. He enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at Ivy Tech Columbus.
He adapted well to college academics, a smooth transition he attributes to the kindly help of Ivy Tech instructors.
His first challenge came when he enrolled in an English composition course. He was hoping to take the class in person on campus to advance his writing skills, but low enrollment in the course forced its cancellation. A section of the course was offered online, but Kansoriwula said he felt a bit unsure about it since it would be his first online course.
He sought out the course instructor, Dr. Jo Ann Hallawell, and discussed his options with her. Hallawell offered to help Kansoriwula in person whenever he needed it.
“He was very conscientious about his work. He really wanted to strengthen his writing skills,” she said. “To see his writing progress through that course was very fulfilling.”
Kansoriwula formed a bond with Hallawell that helped guide his education and provided him with a sounding board throughout his college education and into his career.
As he advanced at Ivy Tech, Kansoriwula found that the College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology Program strongly aligned with his interests. The program provides a hands-on curriculum that enables students to learn about materials, testing, and design. They also learn skills such as synthesizing, improving and implementing mechanical designs and gain a necessary understanding to support engineering processes such as collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and troubleshooting mechanical systems.
Kansoriwula earned his associate degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology in May 2014 and transferred to Purdue University to pursue his bachelor’s degree.
“I feel like Ivy Tech really prepared me for Purdue,” Kansoriwula said. “Academically I was challenged, but I felt prepared for that.”
Thriving in his career
In summer 2015, Kansoriwula gained an internship at Cummins Inc. as a Program Readiness Intern. He worked in supply chain management, helping procure parts and ensuring their availability to build prototype engines.
He was attracted to the engine-making company for many reasons. It is a large company based in a city in which he felt connected; its workforce was global and diverse; and it actively emphasized corporate responsibility.
“It wasn’t just a company making money off of society. It is a company contributing back to society,” Kansoriwula said. “And they make engines. I like engines. It’s amazing to see how they work and how they affect our lives in so many ways.”
Kansoriwula completed his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology in 2016 and took a full-time position at Cummins as a test engineer. He now works daily with engines, testing them and collecting data on how they work.
He’s followed a career path that started at Ivy Tech, continued on at a four-year university and has resulted in a successful career at a major advanced manufacturing employer. Hallawell, who has written letters of recommendation for Kansoriwula to help him along his path to Purdue and Cummins, said Kansoriwula has embraced and taken advantage of every opportunity.
“He is a very humble young man, and he has a heart of gold,” Hallawell said. “He knows he has been given great opportunities, and he has not wasted them. He has thrived.”
As for his family in Ghana, Kansoriwula believes they are pleased with how his adventure has played out.
“I think they are very proud of me,” he said.