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Measuring intercultural sensitivity: A case study of the REU program at UPRM

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Innovative IE Curricula

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Engineering Economy, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.890.1 - 23.890.18

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Paper Authors


Saylisse Davila University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

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Dr. Dávila research interests includes the application and development of data mining methods in the early detection of anomalies. She is currently working on the development of a variety of methods involving feature selection and pseudo-permutation tests in the early detection of disease outbreaks. Her current work also targets high-dimensional approaches to characterize anomalies with applications to public health surveillance and statistical process control. Other interests for Dr. Dávila include providing under-represented populations with research opportunities at an undergraduate level. To date, she has mentored more than ten undergraduate students, and worked as the co-principal investigator for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site at University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. As a doctoral student, Dr. Dávila received prestigious fellowships from the National GEM Consortium/Intel Corporation, Tau Beta Pi, and Awards for Research College Scientists. She is also member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and honor societies such as Golden Key, Alpha Pi Mu, Tau Beta Pi, and Omega Rho.

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Viviana I. Cesani University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

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Dr. Viviana Cesani is a professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM). She completed her Ph.D. degree in Manufacturing and Production Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998. Her areas of interest in teaching and research include production planning and control, supply chain management, engineering economy, project management, and engineering education. She is currently the department head of the IE department at UPRM. Dr. Cesani is a senior member of IIE, President of the UPRM-Delta Chapter of the International Organization for Women Educators, and member of the Professional College for Engineers and Land Surveyors of Puerto Rico. She was recognized as UPRM Distinguished IE professor in 2003 and 2010, and as Distinguished Industrial Engineer for the Year 2010 by the College of Engineers and Land Surveyors of Puerto Rico.

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Alexandra Medina-Borja University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez

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Alexandra Medina-Borja earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech. and holds a Production Engineering degree from the Federal University of São Carlos in São Paulo, Brazil. Medina-Borja has concentrated her work in areas related to the effective design and analysis of service delivery systems. Her main research contribution has been to advance a model for the performance evaluation of nonprofit social services by adapting Data Envelopment Analysis formulations to account for the effects of the operating environment on units functioning under different market and geographical conditions. In 2002, the American Red Cross adapted Medina-Borja’s performance measurement framework to evaluate chapter operations, thus making it one of the largest centralized nonprofit evaluation systems in the world. A paper relating this experience based on her doctoral dissertation work was awarded the 2007 Goodeve Medal by the British Operational Research Society for the most significant contribution to the theory and practice of OR in the given year. In 2006, she founded the International Service Systems Engineering Research Lab in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez where she is an associate professor. Through ISSER she has been able to secure more than $1.5 million in federal funding for her research, mainly from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and mainly to study the inclusion of behavioral and cultural considerations in modeling of large service systems. She is a member of the System Dynamics Society, IIE, INFORMS, and Alpha Pi Mu and a board member of the Society for Engineering and Management Systems. In January 2012, Medina-Borja started a rotation at NSF in Arlington, Va., where she was appointed as the first director of evaluation and assessment for the Directorate for Engineering. In this new role, Medina-Borja’s responsibilities include designing and implementing a state-of-the-art evaluation and assessment system for the whole directorate that encompasses close to 100 programs in five different divisions with a budget of 800 million dollars. Outcome indicators collected through this system will be used to demonstrate the impact on society of NSF’s investments in engineering research. She was nominated for the UPRM Engineering Distinguished Faculty Award in 2006 and won the award in 2007, 2008 and 2011.

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Measuring Intercultural Sensitivity: A Case Study of the Industrial Engineering REU Program at UPRMThe National Academy of Engineering’s call to educate global engineers has sparked a numberof globalizing programs and coursework at different institutions. Nevertheless, there is a need toquantify the extent to which the ability of recent graduates to understand, appreciate, and acceptdifferences among cultures is being influenced by globalizing programs and coursework. Inother words, how do these emerging programs improve the intercultural sensitivity scale ofengineering graduates? In 2009, NSF funded a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)site at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) named Educating a culturally-sensitive Industrial Engineer: A complex interdisciplinary systems perspective to global IEissues. The summer component of this REU site takes advantage of the unique location of PuertoRico, with a distinct Hispanic-Caribbean culture and a highly industrialized manufacturingenvironment, to expose intercultural teams of participants to some of the challenges associatedwith working in a global economy. In addition to research activities, this REU includes culturaland professional activities aimed at providing students with an opportunity to foster theirculturally-sensitive management skills. By the end of the summer internship, students gained notonly critical scientific knowledge and expertise in different research areas, but also theexperience of working in intercultural teams.Nevertheless, did this exhaustive intercultural program have an effect in the students’intercultural skills? Are there any differences in the way it impacted students coming from US-based institution versus the way it impacted UPRM students? To answer all these questions, weused the Intercultural Sensitivity Scale (ICSS) by Chen and Starosta (2000) on a cohort of 43students from the 2010-2012 UPRM-REU summer programs. Feature selection, using analysisof variance, indicates that the factors that contribute more heavily toward changes in thestudents’ intercultural sensitivity are (1) the experience of going through the REU summerprogram and (2) whether the student went to school at UPRM or not. Both of these factors alsohave a statistically significant two-way interaction with the different ICSS constructs. Non-parametric paired analyses were used to test whether the experience had a positive effect in theparticipant’s intercultural scale. At a 0.05 significant level, every REU summer program wasable to trigger a statistically significant improvement in the interaction confidence andinteraction enjoyment constructs of the ICSS. Overall, the REU program also had a statisticallysignificant ( ) effect in the interaction engagement and respect for cultural differencesconstructs of the ICSS. Lastly, results indicate that the UPRM program has been responsible forthe overall improvement in the intercultural sensitivity scale of 21 participants of the REUsummer program.

Davila, S., & Cesani, V. I., & Medina-Borja, A. (2013, June), Measuring intercultural sensitivity: A case study of the REU program at UPRM Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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