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Measuring Engineering Students’ Ability to Thrive in Diverse and Global Environments

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1138.1 - 26.1138.14



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Paper Authors


Joyce B. Main Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Joyce B. Main is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds a Ph.D. in Learning, Teaching, and Social Policy from Cornell University, and an Ed.M. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Matilde L. Sanchez-Pena Purdue University

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Matilde Sanchez-Pena is a first year PhD student in the Engineering Education program at Purdue University. Her research interests are global engineering, education policy making and the effective teaching of statistics in engineering.

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Measuring Engineering Students’ Ability to Thrive in Diverse and Global EnvironmentsEngineering programs, professional associations, and industry stakeholders emphasize the importance ofpreparing graduates for an increasingly global, rapidly changing environment. Although there has beenincreased attention to prepare undergraduates for a global engineering profession, there are challengesassociated with measuring how cultural programs and experiences contribute to positive changes instudents’ abilities to work and thrive in diverse environments. Broadly defined, global competency can bedefined as “having an open mind while actively seeking to understand cultural norms and expectations ofothers, leveraging this gained knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively outside one’senvironment” (Hunter et al., 2006). Measuring global competency levels before and after participation incultural programs may therefore be a potentially effective method for measuring changes in students’ability to work in a global environment. Currently, studies on engineering students’ baseline globalcompetency levels are few at the undergraduate level. This research fills this gap to provide baselinelevels of global competency for benchmarking and also to begin larger scale inquiries to evaluate howparticipation in study abroad programs, international experiences, culturally-relevant curriculum, andother related activities can contribute to changes in students’ ability to work in diverse environments.The Miville-Guzman Universality-Diversity Scale short form (MGUDS-S) measures the “universe-diverse orientation” construct, which “reflects an attitude of awareness of both the similarities anddifferences that exist among people” (Miville et al., 1999). The total possible MGUDS-S score is 90 withhigher scores being associated with a relative positive attitude toward others and the “simultaneousappreciation of both the similarities and differences that exist between oneself and others.” Therefore,MGUDS-S serves as a proxy for students’ global competency levels. Based on data including 1,621engineering freshmen, the baseline mean score for domestic students is 66 (SD=9.32), whereas it is 70(SD=8.77) for international students. Using ordinary least squares regression to identify factors thatinfluence the level of MGUDS-S score, results indicate that female, underrepresented minority, andinternational students are more likely to have higher scores. These findings are consistent with previouswork conducted by Miville et al. (1999, 2004), and also suggest that women and underrepresentedminority students, and particularly international students, may score higher since they may be more likelyto interact with others from different backgrounds. Among domestic students, travel abroad for 14 to 90days is associated with higher global competency levels suggesting that increased interaction with otherswho are from different cultures and backgrounds plays a positive role. These findings contribute to aburgeoning line of scientific inquiry lending support to programs that increase interactions betweendiverse engineers and to travel abroad experiences. This research also has broad implications for helpingacademic institutions and key stakeholders to develop strategies toward the professional formation ofengineers who can engage in an increasingly globalized environment.

Main, J. B., & Sanchez-Pena, M. L. (2015, June), Measuring Engineering Students’ Ability to Thrive in Diverse and Global Environments Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24475

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