IDES Program Multiplies Grad’s Studies, Successes, and Next Steps

Author: William Schmitt
Event Date: February 16, 2021
Don’t assume that someone who grew up near an airport, loved to go to air shows, graduated from a respected STEM high school, and earned admission into Purdue’s College of Engineering has settled into a long-term career as an aerospace engineer. It is true that 2006 graduate Corey Jorman has a job he loves at The Boeing Company. But with the Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies (IDES) program having provided lift for the takeoff, his journey is less predictable and more dynamic than you might think. Corey holds two non-AAE bachelor’s degrees and a JD in intellectual property. This self-described people-person focused on the manufacturing sector uses words like “harvesting” and “protecting” to describe his daily tasks as a lawyer. And this young alumnus ponders future destinations—with a possible MBA still on the radar screen.

Corey JormanCorey has compelling explanations for his choice of the IDES approach, incorporating the University’s recognized instincts for hands-on problem-solving and the desire to build a better world one step at a time. When he entered the COE in 2001, of course those traits were timeless ingredients in a recipe for career success within one specialty. But he says his restlessness was irresistible. After the First-Year Engineering Program introduced him to various engineering fields, he deemed a few to be equally interesting but felt nudged toward a connectivity that inspires him. It was a time of family tragedies at home, and he was disappointed in grades that belied his high school experiences. His desire to find solutions through synergies pointed him outward toward others, not inward. He maintained his anticipation of future leaps for the common good.

“I feel like most of the world’s problems are interdisciplinary,” he says, favoring “teams of people that have very different backgrounds, working together.” Planning his sophomore year, Corey looked around Purdue for a bigger framework of his future: “I wanted a background that would let me see into a lot of different things.” At the College’s School of Engineering Education, he met academic advisor Christine Pekny, who told him about the school’s interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary options for undergraduates.

He learned he could take a dual-degree approach, earning a Bachelor of Science—rigorous but removed from the theoretical depth of any single field—plus a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering Technology from the Purdue University Polytechnic Institute. This degree would focus more on tangible aspects of working on aircraft. The whole plan could be accomplished over six years through the Interdisciplinary Engineering (IDE) program. He would still face a demanding schedule of higher-level engineering courses, with lots of math, but this option resonated with him.

“IDE was actually the perfect fit for me,” Corey says. During the semesters that followed, he was able to step boldly into additional disciplines—especially law, which had caught his attention earlier. He says he took numerous law courses from schools across the Purdue campus, such as business law and elder law.

This interdisciplinary approach requires an extra amount of grit because the combination of degrees may not always be recognized as standard preparation for pre-defined job openings, Corey acknowledges. “You have to advocate for yourself.” But wise IDE students, confident that they are developing their unique mix of talents and interests, learn to explain their studies and motivations, along with their ability to make an unmatched impact. They discover that the economy is filled with broader needs, evolving more quickly than anyone expects. They are willing to seize intriguing opportunities, sparking a chance to leap across industries and categories.

After graduation in 2006, Corey took his first job with General Electric Aviation in Cincinnati. Later, he moved to Caterpillar Inc., rising from diesel engine performance engineer to systems integrator, first dealing with engines for oil wells, then with marine and industrial turbines. In line with his collaborative spirit, this led to the management of teams comprising people with diverse skill sets, overseeing new systems from design to prototype and beyond.

His coordination duties required monitoring of the intellectual property responsibilities for new components, and this rekindled his appreciation of the legal profession. From 2013 to 2016, he earned a JD degree, and he immediately joined a national law firm as a patent attorney working in St. Louis. Now, he has been with Boeing in that city as a patent specialist for more than two years, managing intellectual property relevant to the company’s manufacturing worldwide. Those legal functions are inseparable from engineering in such a high-technology field; the team he supervises consists of engineers and scientists, as well as lawyers. 

Not only does the connection to manufacturing accord with Corey’s instincts for a “hands-on” engagement with aerospace, but his work takes his people-person gifts to the global level. He “harvests inventors,” as he puts it—meeting with leaders of cutting-edge companies around the world to evaluate their intellectual property for possible future use. “Most of the things I see are things I’ve never seen before,” deserving both a lawyer’s eye and an engineer’s eye. The prospect of acquiring parts and technologies means “deciding how to protect them” through international patent law and advising their inventors so their intellectual property can be protected. He quips that he holds “one of the few legal jobs where your clients are excited to talk to you.” Patent specialists like him must be great communicators, he says, because they dig into the knowledge of innovators and translate that to others.

The Jorman Family

Life is good for Corey and his family, even as the COVID-19 pandemic forces his global consultations into on-screen meetings. What could be next? He has not lost his persistent hunger for professional growth and a better-understood world. “I try to be as well-rounded as possible,” so he is considering enrollment in an executive MBA program to move from team leadership to corporate leadership.

All of this began with Purdue’s IDE program transforming a student’s initial sense of emptiness into a plan for his best trajectory, says this exemplar of interactions; he salutes this connectivity within engineering. It must begin with candid conversations and tough discernment within the School of Engineering Education, but it ultimately can build the confidence to say, “There’s nothing I can’t figure out how to do.”

Corey has returned to the school from time to time to share this spirit with those pursuing either the Multidisciplinary Engineering (MDE) option or the IDE program—now bearing the IDES acronym for Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies.

“Everyone in IDES is a little off the beaten path and willing to step outside the typical comfort zone, to do something a little bit different that fits them well,” he says. No one’s offering escape routes, generalizations, or guarantees amid COE’s world-class rigors. But Corey gives voice to the program’s value for persistent Boilermakers like him: “If it didn’t exist, I probably would have tried to find it—or to make it.”

Recent Family Photo: Corey with wife Heather, Inez (2 months) and Ava (2 years)