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Observations From A Project To Encourage Multiple Year, International Collaboration On Research For Undergraduates

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

International Case Studies:Collaborations, Exchanges & Interactions

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1116.1 - 12.1116.12



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Paper Authors


Stephen Silliman University of Notre Dame

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Stephen E. Silliman is a Professor of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs in the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. His primary area of research is in groundwater hydraulics and chemical transport. He has pursued research and educational programs in both Haiti and Benin (West Africa) involving both undergraduate and graduate students.

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

Observations from a Project to Encourage Multiple-Year, International Collaboration on Research for Undergraduates


Over the past 10 years, the author has experimented with a number of program formats designed to inform engineering undergraduates of the requirements of pursuing engineering projects in developing countries. These have included: (i) an elective course on water supply in developing countries, (ii) a service program in Haiti involving a combination of U.S. engineering and non- engineering undergraduates, (iii) an international REU program involving collaborative research in Benin (West Africa) among students from multiple universities in the U.S., and (iv) a recent experiment in multi-year research involving collaborations among U.S. undergraduates working with graduate students in Benin. A previous ASEE paper compared preliminary assessment of the first three types of programs (course, service, and REU). Results from this earlier assessment indicated that the multi-year program should represent a popular offering for U.S. undergraduates. Although the assessment of the first experience with the multi-year offering is limited by the number of student participants (4) such that the results must be interpreted with caution, the assessment leads to insight into the motivation, objectives, and constraints on an international, multi-year program. Among the positive outcomes are enhanced student appreciation (in both the US and Benin) of the potential benefit of international collaboration, recognition of common objectives (both educational and professional) among students from different cultures, and significant research results. Among the constraints not realized prior to this experience are the role that original student motivation has on long-term dedication to the project, the continuing language barriers that exist even after an 8-week common experience among the students, the challenge associated with disparate periods (in the two countries) during which the students have relatively free time to commit to the research effort, and the different educational philosophies of the two programs (U.S. and Benin).


Over the past decades, a number of initiatives in engineering education that involve efforts beyond the classroom have been presented in the literature. In many cases, strong arguments can be made that such experiences have a positive impact on the undergraduate engineering experience. For example, significant experiments in service learning have demonstrated substantial impact on the educational experience of the undergraduate. These have included, for example, the substantial efforts in EPICS programs1, integration of service-learning into the engineering curriculum2, and use of service-learning as a means of addressing engineering ethics through application3. Similarly, research experiences for undergraduates have been shown to have substantial impact on the student experience4. Such research experiences are now considered fundamental to engineering education and are supported, for example, by the U.S. National Science Foundation through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Finally, there is increasing awareness of the need to consider the unique engineering requirements involved in working in developing countries, as demonstrated through U.S. organizations focused on developing countries (e.g., Engineering World Health, Engineers

Silliman, S. (2007, June), Observations From A Project To Encourage Multiple Year, International Collaboration On Research For Undergraduates Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1843

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