Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Undergraduate research experiences are known to spike student interest in research, and inspire women and racial minority students to seek science, engineering and technology degrees, putting them on the path toward higher education. It has been suggested that engineering experiences or research projects in international locations, where students are exposed to environmental and sustainability issues connected to social welfare, may compel students to seek advanced higher education opportunities in their later professional paths. In this study, we evaluated the impact of linking authentic research experiences to community development and sanitation rights in an international location. It was hypothesized that the international context of the research experiences will provide students with a global perspective of water reuse challenges and promote increased interest in pursuing an advanced degree in engineering. Through the Sustainable Sanitation International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) Program, US students conducting research in Durban, South Africa in 2015-2017 were tasked with leading 6-8-week long research projects, in collaboration with partners at the University of KwaZulu Natal. Once in the US, students were given opportunities to prepare papers and presentations for regional and international scientific conferences, and to conduct K-12 outreach activities. All participants were from groups underrepresented in science and engineering. Data collection included pre- and post-program surveys and post experience interviews. Surveys evaluated research skills, research self-efficacy, and interest in pursuing an advanced degree in engineering (e.g., self-reported research confidence gained through the IRES program was observed to increase over time and was statistically different from the comparison group, p = 0.038). Our qualitative results indicate the awareness of culture, societal needs, and engineering challenges faced in Durban had a positive effect on students’ perceptions of how their professional work can have a global impact. The benefits gained from the international research experience have important implications for the environmental engineering education field. These experiences can introduce greater research self-efficacy, foster an interest in engineering field research, inspire students from underrepresented groups, and engage all participants in global issues and impacts.
Casad, B. J., & Palomo, M., & Mladenov, N. (2018, June), International Scientific Research Experiences: Developing Global Citizens and Nurturing Engineers and Scientists of the Future Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30707
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