Axel Van Hoyweghen and Kimberly Pawlowicz, OU graduate students in engineering management, get engaged in the lab where they first met as sophomores

The engaged couple in front of the Engineering Center

Newly engaged Axel Van Hoyweghen and Kimberly Pawlowicz by the Engineering Center


icon of a calendarDecember 15, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Arina Bokas

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When students embark on an educational journey at Oakland University, they take a road that leads them to much more than academic and professional growth: They discover what truly engages their soul, and sometimes they find their soulmate.

On May 8, 2021, Circuits Laboratory, located in the Engineering Center (EC 556), was a rare sight to witness. Strings of white lights were draping from the ceiling and circling around the equipment, creating an intimate ambiance. The aroma of red, long-stem roses filled every corner of the room. Dozens of roses composed a border of the path leading to the table in the center of the laboratory. There, nestled among the flowers and the lights, sat a beautiful diamond ring, sparking triumphantly under a red LED sign that displayed the most life-defining question, “Marry Me?”

This is how Axel Van Hoyweghen, B.S. ’18, a graduate student in engineering management, chose to propose to his fellow student and girlfriend of five years, Kimberly Pawlowicz, B.S. ’18.

“I was completely caught off-guard and absolutely speechless. I remember staring at the gorgeous ring through my tears of happiness as he placed it on my finger. Words cannot describe how happy, excited and humbled I felt at that moment,” recalls Pawlowicz, who is also pursuing an engineering management graduate degree. “It was the most thoughtful and perfect proposal; this was the lab where we first met and where it all started.”

It all started in the fall of 2016, when Van Hoyweghen and Pawlowicz took the Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering course, taught by Brain Dean, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. One component of this class included a laboratory section, and they both signed up for the Thursday evening sessions held in EC 556.

“I was very nervous the first day in the lab; I was the only girl in that section and the only one without a partner. I was sitting by myself on the bench when Axel walked in. Dr. Dean instructed him to be my partner. My first impression was that Axel was very nice, a little shy and incredibly smart,” Pawlowicz describes meeting her fiancé for the first time.

The project involved introductory circuit experiments. Every week, students had to collaborate on executing experiments by building circuits on breadboards and gathering results. “After the labs, we would meet on various occasions to work on the reports together,” Van Hoyweghen recalls the beginning of their friendship.

For Van Hoyweghen, this friendship was especially important. He and his family moved to the United States from Belgium just two months prior to starting his first semester at Oakland University, leaving behind all his friends.

“I chose OU because I really enjoyed the campus, the computer science program offered here and the people. It was a big adjustment in terms of culture and language, but I always felt like I fit in,” Van Hoyweghen says. “Teachers and students were very helpful.”

After the semester was over, the couple remained good friends. They continued meeting regularly to do their homework and spend time together. Over the months, the friendship turned into dating. Following their graduation, in December of 2018, Van Hoyweghen got a position as a Software Engineer at 24G, while Pawlowicz started at ESG Automotive as a System Design Engineer. They moved into their first apartment and got a Pomsky, named Eve. Yet, OU was still calling their names – they both decided to go back for a master’s degree in Engineering Management.

“It was an easy decision to continue our education at Oakland University since we both had an incredible experience there,” Pawlowicz says. Together they began their graduate program, in September of 2019, and together, they purchased their first house a year later. “Our relationship continued growing stronger, and I knew that one day I would marry Axel,” Pawlowicz adds.

On the day of the engagement, Pawlowicz expected to celebrate an early Mother’s Day with Van Hoyweghen’s mother. Instead, they pulled up to the stairs in front of the Engineering Center.

“Axel’s mom handed me a post-it note with “EC 556” written on it. As puzzled as I was, when I walked into the building, I was feeling very nostalgic, remembering all of the late nights studying, doing homework and working on projects with Axel,” Pawlowicz recalls.

Van Hoyweghen shares the sentiment – the exact reason why he chose the Engineering Center as a setting for his marriage proposal.

“It is part of us. Here we met and had some initial great times together. As we moved through our degrees, we spent a lot of our time here studying together. SECS engaged us professionally by giving us a competitive edge in the workplace through the great education we have received,” Van Hoyweghen says.

Dr. Dean, who unwittingly connected the couple, feels honored to have played some role in their life journey. “From my own experience, I know that it is such a blessing to be confident that you and your spouse can work together to solve complex problems. Having proved that they can work together to succeed at their engineering education, I am certain that they will be able to rely on one another to succeed in all aspects of their life,” he says.

The engaged couple is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2022, followed by a fall wedding. For them, educational and life engagements truly go hand in hand.

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