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Integrating Study, Research, and Internships in a Year-long International Engineering Program Abroad

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

International Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.777.1 - 24.777.23



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Paper Authors


Sigrid Berka University of Rhode Island

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Dr. Sigrid Berka is the executive director of the International Engineering Program (IEP) at the University of Rhode Island and also the director of the German IEP and the Chinese IEP, responsible for building academic programs with exchange partners abroad, internship placements for IEP’s dual-degree students, corporate relations, and fundraising for the IEP. Bi-annually the IEP organizes the Colloquium on International Engineering Education. Under Sigrid’s leadership, the IEP received NAFSA’s Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for innovative campus internationalization (2011), and the Andrew Heiskell Award for study abroad (2012) by the Institute of International Education. Sigrid serves on the provost’s Global Education Steering Committee. In her previous appointment as managing director of the MIT Germany program, she built up an innovative program providing experiential learning opportunities such as internships and workshops for MIT students in German companies and research institutes, as well as MIT access for corporate partners in the MIT International Science & Technology Initiatives (MISTI).

From 2007-2009, Sigrid served as MIT Delegate for the Global Excellence Initiative (GEI-GEIP), a consortium of the best engineering schools world-wide with a mission to educate the global engineer, sponsored by Continental AG. Consortium members included MIT, Georgia Tech, the University of Darmstadt, RWTH Aachen, Shanghai Jiao Tong, Tsinghua, Polytechnico de Sao Paulo, ETH Zurich, and Monterrey Tech.
A native of Germany, Sigrid Berka ihas a Staatsexamen in German literature, philosophy, and education from RWTH Aachen (1986), and a Ph.D. in German studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1990). As an assistant professor of German studies, she taught 19th and 20th century literature and culture courses at Barnard College and Columbia University (1990-1996). Her book, Mythos-Theorie und Allegorik bei Botho Strauss, came out in 1991. She also co-authored an intermediate textbook for German language, Spiralen, and has written many articles on German and Austrian writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. As associate professor of German at the University of Rhode Island, her publications shifted to the field of international engineering education.

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Walter von Reinhart

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INTEGRATING STUDY, RESEARCH AND INTERNSHIPS ABROAD FOR A YEAR-LONG INTERNATIONAL ENGINEERING PROGRAMAbstract:The efficient design and implementation of study abroad experiences for engineering students iscrucial for the success rate and scalability of such a program. In this paper the authors describehow semester-long research experiences can be integrated into the semester of study abroadengineering students pursue as part of their year-long stay abroad during the fourth year of studyin the five-year dual degree International Engineering Program (IEP). While the IEP has foryears been a model in integrating engineering with the languages, it has in recent years added theopportunity for students to do hands-on, experiential research before they start their internship ina company.The research experience, if carefully matched with the student’s engineering discipline, and isalso integrated into the curriculum students follow abroad, it can be an excellent preparation forhis/her internship in a company abroad which follows the semester of study/research. Examplesof such integration are a Mechanical Engineering & German student who participated in asemester-long research project in the Institute for Vehicle Technology at the TechnicalUniversity of Braunschweig and was subsequently selected for an internship at BMW helping toprepare its MINI for the race track. Another example is the Ocean Engineering & Chinesestudent who is doing research at Zhejiang University’s Ocean College in the Institute of Coastaland near-shore Engineering while studying at Zhejiang University, and will do her internship atOffshore Pipelines & Risers, a Zhejiang University start-up in Hangzhou. Further examples arethe German & Mechanical Engineering student who did research in the Institute for ElectricalMetrology at TU Braunschweig, then interned at Hexagon Metrology in Wetzlar; or theChemical Engineering & German student who participated in a nanotechnology project in theInstitute for Chemical & Thermal Processing Technology and went on to intern at Bayer’snanotechnology department in Leverkusen.The paper will discuss  how the IEP and its students go about finding the right match between their major and the appropriate institute at the partner university;  how the Advanced Technical German course they take at the partner university or the Advanced Technical Chinese course they take on the home campus helps students integrate into their institute and make the most out of their technical and linguistic development  the nature of the research projects, and what students have to submit to get credit assessment of the outcome of the research project by the partner university, and assessment by the IEP of its success through a survey tool how credit transfer for this experience is being administered how this crucial experience can help place students into competitive internships in companies in China and Germany and the prospect of developing such a research to internship sequence also in international engineering programs in France, Spain and Chile. How student research projects in institutes of partner universities abroad have helped with stimulating international faculty collaboration

Berka, S., & von Reinhart, W. (2014, June), Integrating Study, Research, and Internships in a Year-long International Engineering Program Abroad Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20669

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