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International Senior Design: Assessing The Impact On Engineering Students After Graduation

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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

Service - Learning Projects

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.793.1 - 13.793.17



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Paper Authors


Heather Wright Michigan Technological University

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Heather Wright is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University. Her concentrations include ecology and risk assessment. She participated in the Civil and Environmental Engineering International Senior Design Program in 2005 and returned as a mentor for the program in 2007. She is currently conducting her doctoral research in Bolivia.

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Linda Phillips Michigan Technological University

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Linda Phillips, PE, CDT, PMP, is Lecturer of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University and Director of the International Senior Design program that allows undergraduates to combine the engineering capstone design course with field construction in a developing country. She is a co-author and illustrator for a book to be published in 2008 titled Field Guide in Engineering for Development Workers: Water Supply, Sanitation Systems, and Indoor Air Quality (American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) Press). Ms. Phillips brings over 20 years of project and company management experience to her professional practice-type classes.

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James Mihelcic Michigan Technological University

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

International Senior Design: Assessing the Impact on Engineering Students after Graduation Abstract

Since the year 2000, Michigan Tech has administered capstone senior design projects for engineering students that allow them to obtain six credits working on an engineering project in the developing world. This paper provides information on the first phase of a long-term assessment, to begin analyzing the impact of our International Senior Design (ISD) program on young practitioners after graduation.

Our contact with program graduates suggests that the ISD experience has a larger impact on a student’s professional practice compared to traditional senior design projects. We are currently implementing a more rigorous assessment program to evaluate this assumption. In this paper, we initiate Phase I of our assessment program by presenting our plan to track graduates from the ISD program that are currently in graduate school, or employed in private engineering practice, K-12 education, and government. Phase I provides some preliminary evidence that our initial assumption about the impact of the ISD program on engineering graduates may be correct. In the second phase of our assessment program we will perform a more detailed assessment to quantify this assumption.


In today’s global economy, there is a large need for engineers to understand how to communicate and operate with foreign customers and co-workers. International education opportunities help break down cultural barriers and provide engineers with the experience and knowledge to design unique solutions to innovate solutions in a global setting. Although there are more international opportunities to take coursework, study abroad, and intern in an international setting, there is still a large gap to fill the ever-increasing demand for engineers with a global perspective. In fact, only four percent of U.S. engineering graduates obtain any kind of international experience before graduation1.

In the 2004-05 school year, 205,983 American students studied abroad; however, engineering students only comprised 2.9 percent, compared to social-science majors and business students that made up of 22.6 and 17.5 percent, respectively.1 Additionally, although there has been an increase in the number of study-abroad students, the percentage of engineering students participating in these programs has remained static for several years.1 A primary factor that is typically blamed for this low participation rate is the highly sequential curricula of engineering programs, which also does not offer many elective courses. There has also been an historical low emphasis placed on gaining an international experience. Despite these challenges, engineering students have sought out studies in the humanities such as languages, cultural studies, social science, and public policy to gain international exposure.2

Surveys and/or questionnaires are frequently used to evaluate engineering courses, programs, departments, or schools.3-5 Students are often the subjects of these assessment tools; however, faculty, instructors, and administrators are also utilized to evaluate the performance of university

Wright, H., & Phillips, L., & Mihelcic, J. (2008, June), International Senior Design: Assessing The Impact On Engineering Students After Graduation Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3367

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: © 2008 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