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Betting on the Progress – Forging a Collaborative Relationship between US and Cuban Engineering Institutions

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2017 ASEE International Forum


Columbus , Ohio

Publication Date

June 28, 2017

Start Date

June 28, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Concurrent Paper Tracks Session II - Study Abroad

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Main Forum (Podium Presentation)

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Paper Authors


Derek Guthrie Williamson University of Alabama

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Dr. Williamson obtained his undergraduate degree in 1990 in Engineering and Public Policy from Washington University in St.Louis. He received his MS (1993) and Ph.D. (1998) degrees in environmental engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Williamson joined the faculty of the the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at The University of Alabama in 1999. He has enjoyed 15 years of a dynamic profession of teaching, research, and service. he now serves as the Director of Undergraduate Programs for his Department.

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Steven Jones University of Alabama

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Steven Jones earned a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Auburn University in 1992.  In 1994, he earned an M.S. degree in civil engineering with concentrations in transportation engineering and economics. He holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Virginia where he concentrated his education and research on the interaction of transportation and air pollution.  His 20 plus years of transportation engineering and planning experience spans both academic and private sector consulting appointments working with government agencies and private land developers to promote balanced transportation/land use connections. He has participated in transportation projects throughout the U.S., Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. He is a charter member of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI) and chair of its Public Transportation committee. Steven is an active member of the Transportation Research Board where he recently served on its standing committee on Technology Transfer. Steven is currently the Technology Transfer Director for the USDOT-funded Southeastern Transportation Center and serves on the editorial board of its Journal of Transportation Safety and Security. He also serves on the editorial board of the African Geographic Review and is an Associate Editor for the ASCE Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 technical articles, conferences papers, design manuals, and project reports on a range of transportation topics. Steven currently focuses his professional efforts on transportation issues in developing countries and cultivating international relationships to facilitate collaborative research, education and technology transfer.

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Relations between the United States and Cuba are changing at an historic rate. U.S. and Cuban engineering institutions are eagerly anticipating future formal relationships. However, many institutional, legal, logistical, communication, and social challenges must be addressed before truly sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships can emerge. The Universidad Tecnológica de la Habana José Antonio Echeverría (CUJAE) has been a leader in formal relationships with international universities for many years. Building on that infrastructure, the College of Engineering at University of Alabama (UA) has been working since 2012 to build a broad basis of trust and mutual respect to allow both of the US and Cuban institutions to move forward with a number of collaborative programs. To this end, the institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the Fall of 2015.

Faculty from UA College of Engineering met with their Cuban partners in Cuba several times between 2012 and 2015 building an understanding over the course of a number of short meetings. During this time, it was decided that a course taught at the Cuban Institution by faculty from both universities would be the best way to start a formal partnership and develop the type of deeper understanding and trust necessary to move forward with other collaborations and exchanges. The first two courses were taught in Cuba in May 2016 with eight U.S. students and two U.S. faculty traveling to the Cuban institution to launch the program.

This paper presents and discusses the emerging partnership between these colleges of engineering. The authors explore the motivations and backgrounds of the individuals, departments, and institutions involved. We discuss how the particular classes were chosen and how their curricula (including roles of different faculty) were developed. The class structure and activities are described and presented. An evaluation of student and faculty assessment of the success, strengths and weaknesses of this first course are discussed.

University Alabama hosted the Cuban faculty in October for one week. During this time, the experience to date was critically examined and future broader interactions between the universities were discussed and will be presented herein, along with a discussion of how personal relationships have been the key to this program’s success.

Williamson, D. G., & Jones, S. (2017, June), Betting on the Progress – Forging a Collaborative Relationship between US and Cuban Engineering Institutions Paper presented at 2017 ASEE International Forum, Columbus , Ohio.

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