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Enhancing Cross-cultural Interaction in Courses with a Large Component of Visiting Study Abroad Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Study Abroad, International Exchange Programs, and Student Engagements

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.568.1 - 25.568.14



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Paper Authors


Alex Friess Rochester Institute of Technology, Dubai

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Alex Friess holds a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering and a B.Sc. in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y. 1997), and has served as Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at RIT, Dubai, since 2009. In addition to undergraduate activities, he teaches in the sustainable energy concentration of RIT, Dubai’s mechanical engineering master’s program. Friess’ industrial and academic career spans a variety of consulting and entrepreneurial activities in Europe, Asia, and Africa, most notably as founding faculty in mechanical engineering at Dubai Aerospace Enterprise University and as Co-founder and CTO of RFB Solartech SL, a company that specializes in solar thermal solutions for the Spanish residential and commercial sector. Friess has established and leads the Sustainable Energy and Energy Efficiency Research Group at RIT, Dubai. Current research interests are focused on sustainability and energy efficiency and the field of engineering design and design education, with a focus on multinational student collaboration and educating the “global engineer.”

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Ivan E. Esparragoza Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine

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Ivan E. Esparragoza is an Associate Professor of engineering at Penn State Brandywine. His interests are in engineering design education, innovative design, global design, and global engineering education. He has introduced multinational design projects in a freshman introductory engineering design course in collaboration with institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of his effort to contribute to the formation of world class engineers for the Americas. He is actively involved in the International Division of the American Society for Engineering Education, in the Latin American and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institution (LACCEI) as Vice-President for Research, and in the International D+Federation of Engineering Education Societies as member of the Executive Board.

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Dylan Connole

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Enhancing Cross-Cultural Interaction in Courses with a Large Component of Visiting Study-Abroad StudentsAbstractInternational student mobility programs enhance the global exposure of students, andrepresent a vital and increasing component in the offering of many Universities worldwide.These programs often involve the travel of a group of students to an overseas location, wherethey, in addition to a variety of cultural activities, also register for a series of courses towardstheir degree completion. These courses are taken jointly with their local peers. Whilecollaborative exchange programs among different universities often target individual studentmobility, and the travelling student (or small group of students) generally represents aminority in the overseas class, in the case of branch campuses, and due to the seamlessintegration of the academic coursework and perhaps more systematic organization of thestudy abroad experience, an increasingly homogeneous and larger travelling student groupcan result, which may in turn imply that the visiting students can represent a large fraction ofa class. This more even distribution between study abroad and local students can generateclassroom dynamics that effectively split the class into two groups, and thus are notsupportive of the cross-cultural interaction dimension of the international experience.This work discusses the observed barriers to cross-cultural collaboration in the classroom atthe international campus of a US institution, where this effect has been noted in asenior/graduate level course about renewable energy systems that was composed by over50% of study-abroad students from the US main campus. Class dynamics of preferablyworking with peers from the same background developed, in part due to an easier out-of-classaccess to these peers, and in part due to a higher comfort level in the peer interaction. Whilethe academic learning outcomes were met by both groups, this experience has shown that inorder to increase cross-cultural interaction in the classroom, specific learning criteria andoutcomes that stress global competencies need to be introduced. This paper presents thelessons learned in the process (including out of classroom factors that affect in classroomcollaboration), and presents a work in progress of designing appropriate learning objectives,activities and assessment tools to foster the development of global competencies in classeswith a large and homogeneous component of study abroad students.

Friess, A., & Esparragoza, I. E., & Connole, D. (2012, June), Enhancing Cross-cultural Interaction in Courses with a Large Component of Visiting Study Abroad Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21325

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