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Extending Our Reach: What We Have Learned In Two Years Of Engineering Study Abroad Programs

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Preparing Engineers for the Global Workplace

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.600.1 - 13.600.15



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Paper Authors

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Alan Parkinson Brigham Young University

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John Harb Brigham Young University

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Spencer Magleby Brigham Young University

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Chelita Pate Brigham Young University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Extending Our Reach: What We Have Learned in Two Years of Engineering Study Abroad Programs Abstract

Two years ago the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology at BYU embarked on an ambitious program to develop engineering study abroad programs. As a first step, we studied programs around the country to better understand programs formats and best practices. For the 2006/2007 school year, we sponsored seven student programs that involved sending students to China, France, Mexico, Romania and Tonga. In this paper we discuss what we have learned from the first cycle of these programs. Issues discussed include why we chose a particular program format, what went well and what did not, preparation of students beforehand, refinement of outcomes, and a surprising emergence, to us, of the potential and importance of international humanitarian projects.


Engineering is a global enterprise. As perhaps no other work or study has done, Tom Friedman’s bestselling book The World is Flat has brought into focus the remarkable changes that have reshaped the roles and skills needed for engineers in the 21st-century.1 The changes that are transforming engineering and technology include the ability to communicate in real time anywhere in the world, the prominence of international markets, the development of global product supply chains, the shift to offshore manufacturing, the scale and reach of multi-national corporations, and the emergence of highly skilled engineering workforces around the world.

As one example of these changes, consider the development of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner.” This plane represents the most successful introduction of a commercial jetliner for Boeing, with over 700 orders received from customers in 32 countries. Fig. 1 shows where parts of this plane will be manufactured.2 It is clear from this figure the 787 will be a globally developed and manufactured product, with major subassemblies of the plane coming from the United States, Canada, Italy, Korea, Australia, Japan, England, Sweden and France.

What does this mean relative to the desirable set of skills for engineers? Recently Patricia Galloway, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, addressed this topic in her important book, The 21st-Century Engineer, A Proposal for Engineering Reform, where she wrote, 3

A solid understanding of globalization is key to an engineer’s success in today’s global society. Globalization involves the ability to understand that the world economy has become tightly linked with much of the change triggered by technology; to understand other cultures, especially the societal elements of these cultures; to work effectively in multinational teams; to communicate effectively—both orally and in writing—in the international business language of English; to recognize and understand issues of sustainability; to understand the importance of transparency while working with local populations; and to understand public policy issues around the world and in the country

Parkinson, A., & Harb, J., & Magleby, S., & Pate, C. (2008, June), Extending Our Reach: What We Have Learned In Two Years Of Engineering Study Abroad Programs Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3542

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