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Preparing Engineers for Global Challenges: Engaging with Chile through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative

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2014 ASEE International Forum


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 14, 2014

Start Date

June 14, 2014

End Date

June 14, 2014

Conference Session

Track 3 - Session 2

Tagged Topic

Student Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

20.30.1 - 20.30.9



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Paper Authors


Megan Mercedes Echevarria International Engineering Program, University of Rhode Island

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Megan Echevarría has directed the Spanish International Engineering Program at the University of Rhode Island since 2008. She has extensive experience creating international study, research and internship opportunities for engineering students, as well as preparing those students for successful participation in such initiatives. As Associate Professor her teaching covers all levels and areas of the Spanish curriculum. She has developed specialized Spanish courses designed for engineers, as well as interdisciplinary courses that connect engineering to other fields of study. In her research she is equally versatile: her scholarship covers a wide range of topics relating to international education, languages across the curriculum, applied linguistics, materials development and literary and cultural studies.

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Sigrid -- Berka University of Rhode Island

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Dr. Sigrid Berka is the Executive Director of the International Engineering Program (IEP) at the University of Rhode Island, and also the Director of the German and the Chinese IEP, responsible for building academic programs with exchange partners abroad, internship placements for IEP’s dual degree students, corporate relations and fundraising for the IEP. Bi-annually, the IEP organizes the Colloquium on International Engineering Education. Under Sigrid’s leadership, the IEP received NAFSA’s Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for innovative campus internationalization (2011), and the Andrew Heiskell Award for an innovative study abroad program (2012) by the Institute for International Education. She was Co-PI of the winning grant proposal (PI Megan Echevarría) chosen as one of four to launch President Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative in the Americas (2014). Sigrid serves as Co-Editor, with Damon Rarick, of the Online Journal for Global Engineering Education (OJGEE) as well as on the Provost’s Global Education Steering Committee. She also serves on the DAAD Alumni Association Board. Since she began working at URI in 2009, the IEP has seen an enrollment increase of 18 % and added an Italian branch. Sigrid has raised close to $500,000 in corporate, foundation, government and private funds for the IEP. She held prior positions as Coordinator, then Managing Director of the MIT Germany Program (1996-2009) and as Assistant Professor of German Studies at Barnard College (1990-96). She has published a book and numerous articles on 19th and 20th German Literature, co-authored an intermediate German textbook, and has more recently published several articles in the area of International Engineering Education.

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Preparing Engineers for Global Challenges: Engaging with Chile through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas InitiativeOur five-year dual-degree program prepares engineers for the future by equipping them with thelanguage, attitudes and skills necessary for success in a world that is evermore interconnectedand interdependent. Students earn a BS in an engineering discipline and a BA in Chinese,French, German, Italian or Spanish. International experiences are a core component of thecurriculum: all of our students spend twelve months abroad during their fourth year, studyingengineering and math coursework for one semester at a partner university, and then completing aprofessional engineering internship at a company or research institute in our program’s network.In addition to these mandatory international experiences, we offer optional short and long-terminternational opportunities, such as research projects, service-learning experiences and intensivelanguage courses, so that students may spend even more time abroad perfecting a variety of skillsthat are essential for today’s global engineer.In this paper we discuss a new international initiative that we designed and that led to theselection of our institution as one of the universities inaugurating President Obama’s 100,000Strong in the Americas program. This presidential initiative aims to foster throughout ourhemisphere greater intercultural understanding and prosperity through increased opportunities ininternational education between the United States and Latin America. The ultimate goal of theseefforts is to better prepare people throughout our hemisphere to address important challenges,including “citizen security, economic opportunity, social inclusion, and environmentalsustainability” ( student development activities that we have devised are all immersion experiences indifferent ways. While some focus on learning through coursework in a classroom setting, mosthave a far more practical focus, taking place outside of the walls of the traditional classroom andcreating opportunities for students to engage with their fields of study in the real world. Someactivities are designed for advanced students as a way to provide them with the chance todemonstrate the knowledge and competencies that they have acquired and develop them further,while also acquiring and refining other equally important skills. Other activities focus on theunique, and too often missed, opportunities to immerse younger students in meaningful fieldexperiences. Still other activities emphasize professional development and networking skills forstudents, by empowering them to participate directly in dissemination activities about our work.In our paper we describe the activities that we have designed, the hurdles that we have faced aswe have begun implementing them and the ways through which we have successfully overcomevarious challenges. We link our activities to the competencies that we project participants willdevelop and how these competencies relate directly to the goals of the 100,000 Strong in theAmericas initiative. By creating short- as well as long-term immersion opportunities for studentsat different junctures of their studies from both countries, our activities create synchronizedstages of educating global engineers of the future, people who are technically skilled, and at thesame time cross-culturally savvy, proficient in more than one language, and keenly aware of howtheir work can impact major social, political and economic challenges.

Echevarria, M. M., & Berka, S. (2014, June), Preparing Engineers for Global Challenges: Engaging with Chile through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative Paper presented at 2014 ASEE International Forum, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--17193

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