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Developing Leadership through an Immersive Service-Oriented International Internship

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Insights and Practices for Engineering Leadership Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

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Paper Authors


Aaron S. Gordon Clemson University

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Aaron Gordon is a Senior Civil Engineering major at Clemson University with extensive experience in sustainable development, construction, and project management in Haiti. He has spent almost a year in Haiti’s rural Central Plateau on projects ranging from repairing small schools, water distribution/treatment systems, sanitation infrastructure, and aquaculture programs. Additionally, he is the founding director of Clemson’s chapter of Grand Challenge Scholars.

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Jeffery M. Plumblee II Clemson University

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Jeff Plumblee, PhD, MBA is a Research Assistant Professor with joint appointments in Engineering & Science Education and Civil Engineering at Clemson University. Plumblee creates, directs, assesses, and grows engagement opportunities for students, including experiential-learning and project-based community engagement opportunities. Plumblee’s primary interests are in engineering and innovation in resource constrained environments and seeking ways to offer these programs to a broader audience, including partnering with other universities and developing online platforms for community engagement courses. Plumblee is the Founding Director of Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries, a student-driven program that provides sustainable solutions to improve the quality of life of those in developing countries. Plumblee is the Founding Advisor for Tigers for Multigenerational Technology Implementation, which is a partnership with a local retirement community to develop tech-based solutions for aging populations. He also serves as Director of Clemson's Grand Challenge Scholars Program.

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Claire L. A. Dancz Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Claire L.A. Dancz is a Research Assistant Professor at Clemson University. Dr. Dancz's research interests include developing active, experiential-learning activities on topics of NAE Engineering Grand Challenges, UN Sustainable Development Goals, sustainability for civil engineers, and assessment of student-learning outcomes and motivation towards these topics, with emphasis on online platforms for delivering these educational opportunities and service-oriented engineering programs in which students can take actions towards these topics. As a Kolbe™ Certified Consultant, Dr. Dancz uses conative assessment to empower individuals with diverse problem-solving instincts to improve productivity, communication, leadership, and impact the diversity of engineers as global change-makers.

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Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) is a student-driven service-oriented program whose mission is to provide sustainable, engineered solutions to communities in the developing world. One of the most successful features of CEDC, from both undergraduate education and community development perspectives, is the structured and innovative internship experience. In addition to in-class student participation in design, planning, and project implementation, a few students are selected annually for an internship in the host community where they have the opportunity to develop and enhance their leadership skills in an international and diverse setting. The internship program consists of Clemson University engineering students living in rural Haiti for 6-12 months, where they lead infrastructure projects around their host community with a team of local Haitian foremen, skilled workers, and general laborers. While many other programs and student organizations provide leadership experience in a classroom context through capstone projects and extra-curricular activities, CEDC interns are tasked with working with local citizens towards a common goal and tangible results. Interns are supported by CEDC’s unique organizational structure that allows students in the classroom to lead design projects that are implemented by the interns in Haiti, with supervision from industry advisors in the United States. CEDC’s project-oriented framework provides students real-world responsibility and accountability for small construction projects that are implemented in Haiti. This real world responsibility enables the development of leadership skills by allowing students to fully immerse themselves in a project’s success or failure in a scaffolded setting. This paper discusses the perspectives and skill sets gained from the internship for both interns and students on campus, including significant leadership development and the ability to engage with people and work within a community across cultures and backgrounds to execute a project. Supporting data, collected by surveying former CEDC interns to better understand their experiences and leadership development in the program, will be presented. The authors build on lessons learned to provide suggestions of how the program could be replicated to provide similar leadership experiences at other academic institutions or within other student organizations.

Gordon, A. S., & Plumblee, J. M., & Dancz, C. L. A. (2017, June), Developing Leadership through an Immersive Service-Oriented International Internship Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28145

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015