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Engagement in Practice: Engaging Undergraduate Students in a Multidisciplinary Service-Learning Environment

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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

Engagement In Practice: Integrating Community Engagement into Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Wei Lu Texas A&M University

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Dr. Wei Lu is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Engineering Technology & Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University.
Her research focuses on Higher Education in Agriculture & Engineering, K-12 (STEM) Education, Communications, Marketing, and Social Economics.
Master of Science, Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University
Doctor of Philosophy, Agricultural Leadership, Education& Communications, Texas A&M University

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Malini Natarajarathinam Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Malini Natarajarathinam joined the faculty of Industrial Distribution Program at Texas A&M University in 2007. Natarajarathinam received her Ph.D. in Supply Chain Management from The University of Alabama. She received her Bachelor of Engineering (Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering) from Anna University [Tamilnadu, India], her MS in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University, her MA in Management Science and MS in Applied Statistics from The University of Alabama. She has experience working with many industries such as automotive, chemical distribution etc. on transportation and operations management projects. She works extensively with food banks and food pantries on supply chain management and logistics focused initiatives. Her graduate and undergraduate students are integral part of her service-learning based logistics classes.

She teaches courses in strategic relationships among industrial distributors and distribution logistics. Her recent research focuses on engineering education and learning sciences with a focus on how to engage students better to prepare their minds for the future. Her other research interests include empirical studies to assess impact of good supply chain practices such as coordinated decision making in stochastic supply chains, handling supply chains during times of crisis and optimizing global supply chains on the financial health of a company. She has published her research in Journal of Business Logistics, International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management and peer-reviewed proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Mary E. Campbell Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Mary K. McDougal Texas A&M University


Lauren Neala Holder Texas A&M University

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Ph.D. student in geoscience education at Texas A&M University.

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In today’s integrated society, professionals and students alike rarely work solely with members of their own discipline and must learn to work collaboratively with others to solve problems and suggest solutions. Increasingly, evidence supports the claim that millennials in particular are more likely to be engaged in problem solving or any job task if they feel that they can make a difference through the work that they are doing. Universities should support this goal of contributing to society through coursework that helps to integrate both multidisciplinary classrooms and classrooms that serve a purpose and can help the surrounding communities through projects like service learning. However, service learning may be difficult to achieve in many places across the United States and even internationally because of logistical issues like money and time. Our work at a land-grant university creates a classroom composed of three majors (distribution logistics, sociology, and technology management) that work together on a distance service learning project to address food disparities. These three majors meet once a week as a united class, and once a week separately to learn pertinent skills from their major. These students work on a service project by using teleconferencing technology to meet remotely with a food bank to fully understand the problems that their food bank is experiencing. Students work in multidisciplinary groups to help make a difference in the lives of people in the communities that their food bank serves while simultaneously learning communication, problem solving, and research skills. We used pre- and post-surveys, reflections, and student interviews to more fully understand the dynamics of the course and student experiences and to track how the multiple disciplines view each other throughout the semester. We will present data from the pilot study of this course and make suggestions for changes for the next iteration.

Lu, W., & Natarajarathinam, M., & Campbell, M. E., & McDougal, M. K., & Holder, L. N. (2018, June), Engagement in Practice: Engaging Undergraduate Students in a Multidisciplinary Service-Learning Environment Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30383

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