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Increasing Multi-Cultural Awareness in Engineering Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

International Division Technical Session 6

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Paper Authors


Ning Xuan Yip Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ning Xuan Yip is a third year student pursuing Chemical Engineering at Purdue University. She is part of the Leadership Team in the Women In Engineering Mentor and Mentee Pair Program, where she organizes meetings and networking events with a focus on developing relationships between the mentors and mentees. As the Diversity Liaison for the program, she works to increase the multi-cultural awareness of the participants, and to increase the retention of international students within the program. In addition, she is currently assisting the faculty in the School of Chemical Engineering with the metabolic engineering and flux analysis of photosynthetic organisms.

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Melissa Loren Ullmer Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Melissa Ullmer is a fourth year student at Purdue University pursuing an bachelors of science in Biomedical Engineering. She grew up in Kokomo, IN. Currently she serves as the “Diversity Chair” of the Purdue Women in Engineering Leadership Team to aid international students during their college careers. Her other activities include serving on the Leadership Team of the Innovation to Reality team which teaches middle school students about engineering, serving as a member of Timmy Global Health, and serving at her local church as a Kids Church coordinator.

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Jennifer L. Groh Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Groh joined the Purdue Women in Engineering Program (WIEP) in 2009. She received a B.S. in microbiology from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining WIEP, she was the Graduate Program Coordinator in the Purdue Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. As Associate Director of WIEP, Jennifer administers the undergraduate Mentee & Mentor Program and the Graduate Mentoring Program, teaches two Women in Engineering seminars (ENGR 19400 and 49400), and oversees WIEP's K-12 outreach programming. Dr. Groh has also invested over 100 hours of training in academic coaching to become a certified Affiliate Coach with LifeBound, Inc. with a specialized focus in serving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) populations nationwide. Additionally, she has facilitated numerous national workshops on academic coaching which have been well received by a variety of audiences, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff in higher education, and corporate representatives. In addition to leading these engaging sessions, Dr. Groh integrates coaching into WIEP programming, student mentoring, and her personal life.

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Darshini Render Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Darshini Render is an Assistant Director for Student Success in the College of Engineering at Purdue University.

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Increasing Intercultural Competencies for Participants of a Women in Engineering Mentoring Program

With a growing number of international students entering engineering in a large Midwestern university, the Women in Engineering Program (WIEP) recognized the need to provide ways to foster cross-cultural understanding, to further integrate international students into the program, and to be cognizant of international student needs while integrating diversity activities into WIEP mentoring programs. This study addresses ways to effectively immerse domestic and international students in cross-cultural activities to improve diversity awareness and prepare participants for a career in a global workforce.

In order to meet these objectives, the student Leadership Team (LT) for the WIEP Mentees & Mentors (M&M) program, under the supervision of the WIEP Associate Director, created two positions titled “Diversity Liaisons” to educate over 300 M&M participants on diversity and inclusion through cultural immersion activities and to provide a resource for international students during their college careers. Beginning with pilot programming in 2013 and continuing today on a larger scale, monthly and semester activities are organized to encourage cultural awareness.

One example of how we incorporate diversity awareness into existing programming is that each M&M monthly meeting for participants includes a quotation from “Foreign to Familiar” by Sarah A. Lanier and an activity to expound upon the learning objective of the quotation. One social event per semester also focuses on cultural immersion. Collaborations with multicultural groups on Purdue’s campus have also aided this study.

Impact of this initiative within M&M will be presented through the results of participant surveys and focus groups. The results suggest that through new multicultural initiatives, participants show an increased understanding of cultures different from their own. A significant number of participants are enthusiastic about learning about cross-cultural differences and attending cultural appreciation events and have learned how to apply these skills in a team or professional setting due to the study efforts.

With an increase in diversity awareness and appreciation, both domestic and international students will be equipped to excel in a global workforce. This study concludes by providing a basis for future initiatives to increase the retention of international students within our program and to increase the multi-cultural awareness of our participants.

Yip, N. X., & Ullmer, M. L., & Groh, J. L., & Render, D. (2016, June), Increasing Multi-Cultural Awareness in Engineering Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25674

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