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Observations on startup and operational challenges for US engineering programs in the Middle East

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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

Engineering Education in the Middle East and Technology Exploration in Africa and Developing Countries

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Page Count


Page Numbers

23.938.1 - 23.938.11



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Paper Authors


Wilhelm Alexander Friess University of Maine

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Dr. Friess holds a Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering and a B.Sc. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1997), and currently is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering with the University of Maine and Director of the Brunswick Engineering Program. Previously he has spent 5 years in Dubai as faculty of RIT Dubai and Dubai Aerospace Enterprise University. Dr. Friess’ industrial and academic career spans a variety of consulting and entrepreneurial activities in Europe, Asia and Africa. Dr. Friess’ research background includes laser diagnostics, composite materials and performance optimization, and he has been active as consultant and design engineer working on a variety of projects. Current research interests focus on engineering education, sports engineering and sustainability and energy efficiency.

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Muhieddin Amer RIT-Dubai

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Dr. Amer is a professor of Electrical Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology - Dubai. He received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1999. Before joining RIT, he worked for Nortel Networks in Dallas, where he held several technical leadership positions in wireless network engineering. Between 2001 and 2007, Dr. Amer worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and Dallas and the University of North Texas, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in the area of telecommunications. Dr. Amer has championed dozens of research projects in wireless engineering, holds patents in wireless product development, and has published extensively in IEEE conferences and wireless engineering forums. Dr. Amer is a senior member of IEEE since 2003. His current main research interest is 4G cellular technologies.

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Observations on startup and operational challenges for US engineering programs in the Middle EastThe increasing need to educate students to prepare them for work in a global workforce hasresulted in a rapid increase in the number of western universities establishing campusesabroad. While international exchange programs and collaborations are widely applied andoffer a valid alternative to convey global competencies to the students, the establishment of abranch campus offers additional systemic advantages, such as the seamless integration of theacademics, a more international projection of the university, and additional global accesspoints for students. In addition, the host country often is very interested in attracting highlyregarded western institutions, and generally provides appealing conditions for theestablishment of a branch campus. While this framework depicts a winning combination, thereality of startup and day to day operation often uncovers unexpected challenges; this workdiscusses observations in establishing a branch campus and implementing US engineeringeducation to the Middle East (specifically in Dubai, UAE).Startup challenges may manifest at many levels, ranging from expectations alignment amongthe host and the US Institution, to student recruiting and market penetration, to classroomchallenges regarding the implementation of typical US education values (such as independentthinking and personal initiative, which often represent a new approach to learning for thelocal and regional students, who originate from school systems that stress other approaches).In addition to attaining name recognition and visibility for the institution in a highlycompetitive market, the difficulty in recruiting top students is compounded as typically thetuition of US Branch Campuses needs to be significantly higher than that of the localgovernment supported institutions (which are typically free for nationals). Moreover, theacademic success of the students is also conditioned by social values and rules, which maydiffer from those typical of the western world (and due to the highly diverse studentpopulation of the region may differ significantly within a single cohort), and can have a directimpact on the effectiveness of a US style engineering curriculum delivery.It is important for institutions deploying internationally to consider these challenges for asuccessful program implementation, and this paper reviews observations and lessons learned,as well as some specific initiatives undertaken to enable Middle Eastern students to succeedin a US Engineering program.

Friess, W. A., & Amer, M. (2013, June), Observations on startup and operational challenges for US engineering programs in the Middle East Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22323

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