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Challenges and Opportunities in International Service Learning

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Imagining Others, Defining Self Through Consideration of Ethical and Social Implications

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Tina Lee University of Wisconsin-Stout

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Dr. Tina Lee is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Program Director for the Applied Social Science Program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

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Devin R. Berg University of Wisconsin-Stout Orcid 16x16

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Devin Berg is an Associate Professor and Program Director of the B.S. Mechanical Engineering program in the Engineering and Technology Department at the University of Wisconsin - Stout.

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Elizabeth A. Buchanan University of Wisconsin-Stout

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Elizabeth Buchanan is Endowed Chair in Ethics and Acting Director, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

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Service learning, and specifically the work of organizations such as Engineers Without Borders USA, have become popular with universities looking to provide their students with applied educational opportunities which blend technical skills with a broader social mission and help the institution demonstrate its global impact. However, questions remain regarding the truly realized outcomes for students, as well as the unintended consequences that may be experienced by the partnering communities. This paper describes early results results from a four-year, mixed-method study which collected data through a combination of interviews and focus groups with members of the Engineers Without Borders USA organization, analysis and coding of completed project documentation, and observations and notes collected during a field visit to a project site. We conclude from our early data that students who are able (given sufficient resources) to fully participate in these type of projects do see positive benefits. However, barriers may prevent all students from having this opportunity. Further, the nature of student service learning projects inherently creates challenges for the communities that partner on these projects. Ongoing revisions to the Engineers Without Borders USA operating procedures may remedy some of the deficiencies, while researchers, participants, and institutions should continue to critically evaluate the impacts and outcomes of their work.

Lee, T., & Berg, D. R., & Buchanan, E. A. (2018, June), Challenges and Opportunities in International Service Learning Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30181

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