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First Learning, then Lifelong Learning: Engineering Study Abroad to Increase Access and Retention among Minorities and Under-represented Groups

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2015 ASEE International Forum


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 14, 2015

Conference Session

Concurrent Paper Tracks - Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and International Forum

Page Count


Page Numbers

19.18.1 - 19.18.8



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Paper Authors


Monica Gray P.E. The Lincoln University - College of Science & Technology

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Dr. Monica Gray is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The Lincoln University. She simultaneously received her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering (Water Resources concentration) and Masters of Public Health (Environmental & Occupational Health concentration) from the University of South Florida, Tampa. She also received a Masters in Biological Engineering from the University of Georgia, Athens and B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Dr. Gray is a seasoned engineer and educator who has lived, studied and worked in various countries around the world.

Prior to arriving at The Lincoln University, she managed the global curriculum portfolio for over a hundred and twenty programs in sixteen countries at Arcadia University and was instrumental in successfully developing and implementing study abroad opportunities and exchanges for undergraduate engineers from institutions across the country, while internationalizing the engineering curriculum through cooperation, consortia and curriculum integration.

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Constance Loretta Lundy

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First Learning then Lifelong Learning: Engineering Study Abroad to Increase Access and Retention among Minorities and Under-represented GroupsIn today’s increasingly global economy, there is an urgent need for a diverse engineeringworkforce representing self-confident and culturally literate individuals who are able to tolerateambiguity as well as empathize with the socio-cultural nuances of different people groups.However, according to the American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE), Going theDistance report, 53.6% Hispanics, 61.4% Native Americans, 61.7% African Americans and 49%Female students who enter engineering programs do not graduate in this major. This translates toan engineering workforce that comprise of about 6% Hispanics, 0.3% Native American, 4%African Americans and 13% females according to the latest National Science Foundation’sreport. With such high attrition rates among minorities and under-represented groups, changingthe current engineering workforce’s diversity portfolio is of grave national importance andrequires a plethora of high impact approaches. In the aforementioned ASEE report, over 60strategies and best practices were proposed. High impact practices included first-year seminars,internships, learning communities, and capstone projects. However, only two anecdotalreferences to study aboard were cited.Concurrent to this market demand for more culturally savvy engineers, engineering programaccreditation requirements speak to the need for students to have “the broad education necessaryto understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, andsocietal context”. Studying abroad is a great way to satisfy these demands. However, commonhistorical fears from engineering faculty and students include delayed graduation, sub-parcurriculum and inability to find equivalent courses. However, these perceptions are changing asover 170,000 engineers studied abroad last year according to the latest Open Doors data. Thisrepresents almost 20% of the 2014 study abroad cohort.Studying abroad represents a pivotal moment in a young person’s life and informs one’s outlookfor years after the event has ended, which is foundational to lifelong learning. The experienceprovides opportunities to reflect on one’s social norms as well as biases, thereby facilitating self-awareness and self-confidence. This immersion experience also fast tracks the language andintercultural development acquisition process. Increasingly, studies are showing that studentswho study abroad, are retained and graduate within four years at higher rates with higher GPAscores, than their non-study abroad peers. Internationalizing the engineering curriculum couldtherefore potentially increase access and retention among minorities and under-representedgroups. This study explores the benefits, opportunities and challenges in sending engineersabroad, details three strategies for internationalizing engineering education, and examines howthese can be achieved to alleviate those historical fears, and ensure affordability, broad access,retention and program efficiency. The key strategies addressed are cooperation, consortia andcurriculum integration to successfully internationalize the engineering curriculum.

Gray, M., & Lundy, C. L. (2015, June), First Learning, then Lifelong Learning: Engineering Study Abroad to Increase Access and Retention among Minorities and Under-represented Groups Paper presented at 2015 ASEE International Forum, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--17141

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: © 2015 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