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An Investigation Of First Year Students’ Perceptions Of Global Awareness

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Preparing Engineers for the Global Workplace and Successful Graduates for a Flat World: What Does It Take?

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Page Numbers

15.169.1 - 15.169.14



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Paper Authors


Sarah Zappe Pennsylvania State University

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Sarah E. Zappe, is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support for the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Pennsylvania State University. In her current position, Dr. Zappe is responsible for supporting curricular assessment and developing instructional support programs for faculty and teaching assistants in the College of Engineering. Her work in engineering education focuses on assessment, faculty development, and teaching and learning issues. She can be reached at

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Thomas Litzinger Pennsylvania State University

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Tom Litzinger is Director of the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State, where he has been on the faculty since 1985. His work in engineering education involves curricular reform, teaching and learning innovations, faculty development, and assessment. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of combustion and thermal sciences. He was selected as a Fellow of ASEE in 2008. He can be contacted at

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Hien Nguyen Pennsylvania State University

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Hien Nguyen is a recent doctoral graduate in Instructional Systems at Penn State University. Her interests include cross-cultural collaborative learning, learning communities, online discussions, instructional design for online learning, and innovative technology for learning. She can be reached at

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Investigation of First Year Students’ Perceptions of Global Awareness


Most engineering educators recognize the importance of emphasizing the so-called “soft-skills” in the undergraduate curriculum in order for graduates to be competitive in the global workforce. Of increasing interest for many engineering programs is engaging students in educational experiences that will increase their global awareness, cultural understanding, and cultural sensitivity. For many universities, requiring all students to work or study internationally is not an option due to the high financial cost. Therefore, other methods must be used to engage students in international experiences without requiring international travel.

In order to inform planning related to non-travel based international experiences, data was collected from 435 first-year engineering students from all campuses of Penn State University. Survey questions asked students about their perceptions of global awareness, including a self- assessment of their current awareness, their desire to improve their global awareness, and how they anticipated improving global awareness while an undergraduate. The results indicated that approximately one-third of the freshmen felt that global awareness was very important to them personally while over one-half believed global awareness to be very important to them professionally. Over half of the students hoped to greatly improve their global awareness during their undergraduate career. When asked how students anticipated increasing their global awareness, the most frequently endorsed responses included interacting with international students in and out of the classroom, completing assignments that focused on international issues, and studying abroad.

Penn State University has begun to take steps to provide students with non-travel based international experiences to help students’ meet the needs of the global workforce. One example of such experiences is the use of cross-national engineering student teams at the capstone level.


“In the United States the oceans that bound our coasts no longer insulate us from other nations. In this dynamic global economy and political environment, engineering must adjust to the new world view.” (National Academy of Engineering, 2004)1

“Every day the men and women of this workforce will face the stress of competing in the fast-paced world of change we call the knowledge-based global economy of the twenty- first century. They will also face even larger challenges because the nation and world will need to call on them to seize opportunities and solve global problems of unprecedented scope and scale.” (Charles Vest, 2008)2

In the past several decades, universities have seen a growing need to train engineering students to be able to function in the increasingly global environment. Colleges of Engineering going through accreditation processes need to provide evidence that graduates are able to “understand

Zappe, S., & Litzinger, T., & Nguyen, H. (2010, June), An Investigation Of First Year Students’ Perceptions Of Global Awareness Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15998

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