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Incorporating Global Perspectives In U.S. Engineering Education

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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

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.731.1 - 13.731.14

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Paper Authors

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Vijay Renganathan Institute of International Education

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Lester Gerhardt Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Peggy Blumenthal Institute of International Education

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Allen Greenwood Mississippi State University

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

Incorporating Global Perspectives in U.S. Engineering Education Abstract

Global awareness is critical for preparing emerging engineers to work in the increasingly global marketplace, and US higher education institutions need to continue adapting by internationalizing their science and engineering programs. According to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors statistics, in 2005- 06, fewer than 7,000 American engineers went overseas for study or professional development; nearly 90,000 came to the US for such purposes.1

Focusing on the challenges and successes achieved by the Institute of International Education and its partners in building global competence in engineering across the United States, this paper will present best-practices to building global competence in US engineering departments. It will discuss the implications and benefits of incorporating international perspective in the course of American engineering education, present options available to existing engineering departments, and offer solutions to the problem of imbalance.


On one hand, in the US and Western Europe, countries are challenged to train and retain enough well-qualified engineers and scientists to meet the needs of their own economies, without having to rely increasingly on international students and professionals. Countries are addressing this challenge in various ways, based on their higher education systems and the interests of government and the private sector. On the other hand, increasing the challenge on the US side is a recognition that global awareness is critical in preparing emerging domestic engineers to work in the increasingly global marketplace. Although we have spoken here about the US and Western Europe, the basic tenets of this paper are equally applicable to the issues facing other continents and countries.

As a result, US engineering schools are seeking ways to make the curriculum and the undergraduate experience more international, and to build opportunities for students and faculty to gain global perspectives. But we have a long way to go: according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2007 Report, in 2005-06, only 2.9% (about 6,500) of US study abroad students were studying engineering. Meanwhile, about 15% of all international students (or close to 90,000) who came to the US for degree study were in engineering.2

The figures below, generated using the Open Doors 2007 Report referencing current and historical data on the percentage of students abroad in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, sheds light on the scope and consistency of this discrepancy.3 Note: “Sciences” in the figures below incorporates life, physical, and health sciences.

Renganathan, V., & Gerhardt, L., & Blumenthal, P., & Greenwood, A. (2008, June), Incorporating Global Perspectives In U.S. Engineering Education Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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