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Providing An Integrated International Experience For Undergraduate Engineering Students At A Small Institution

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Engineering Without Borders Programs Involving Students

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Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1052.1 - 11.1052.11



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Paper Authors


Eric Johnson Valparaiso University

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Eric Johnson is the Paul and Cleo Brandt Professor of Engineering and an Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Valparaiso University. His area of scientific research is design process methodologies and his teaching interests include introductory computer design courses and the development of international experiences for engineering students.

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Sarah DeMaris Valparaiso University

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Sarah DeMaris is Professor of German and Director of the Kade-Duesenberg German House and Cultural Center at Valparaiso University. She teaches all levels of German language, literature, and culture and her research interests focus on late medieval Dominican history.

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Doug Tougaw Valparaiso University

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Doug Tougaw is the Leitha and Willard Richardson Professor of Engineering and Department Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Valparaiso University. His area of scientific research is nanotechnology, and his teaching interests include first-year courses and the interaction between engineering and business.

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

Providing an Integrated International Experience for Undergraduate Engineering Students at a Small Institution

Abstract - This paper outlines the development of a new international engineering program at Valparaiso University. The Valparaiso University International Engineering Program (VIEP) is a five-year program that combines a major in one of four engineering fields with a major or minor in a foreign language. It also includes year-long residency in Germany. German was chosen as the first component of the program because of the university’s German heritage and the abundance of German-related resources readily available through the university. The program allows students to gain a multi-cultural experience and German language proficiency along with technical engineering skills, and prepares them for careers in the international marketplace either in the US or abroad. The current status of the program is also detailed along with the advantages and challenges of creating such a program at a small, primarily liberal-arts institution.


With the continued emphasis on globalization in industry, companies are seeking graduates in all areas who have some form of international experience. While liberal arts and business students are more likely to have these experiences, engineering students typically stay on campus during their undergraduate years. The main factors in keeping engineering students resident have been the inflexibility of the engineering curriculum and the lack of international opportunities for engineering students at most institutions [1]. Over the past ten years, however, this situation has begun to change as institutions see the value in an international experience for engineering undergraduates and are beginning provide various opportunities for them. ABET's new criteria have also helped engineering colleges by promoting engineering graduates who have the ability to work across linguistic and cultural boundaries.

The challenge to engineering institutions today is to determine what kind of international experience to offer. Typically the size and scope of the experience depends on the size of the institution. Many larger institutions offer a broad range of international opportunities over longer periods of time. As an example, one of the largest undergraduate international engineering programs is at the University of Rhode Island (URI). It offers a five-year, dual-degree program, which allows students to earn both a B.S. in Engineering and a B.A. in a foreign language (German, Spanish or French) [2]. Students enroll in appropriate courses for both majors, participate in a cooperative-education placement in overseas and live together in URI's International Engineering House. International companies, some of which have U.S. research and/or manufacturing plants near the university, are active partners in the program and provide cooperative education placements to the URI students. The program has grown quickly and currently enrolls over 175 students, a higher percentage of which are women and minority students than is average for engineering.

Johnson, E., & DeMaris, S., & Tougaw, D. (2006, June), Providing An Integrated International Experience For Undergraduate Engineering Students At A Small Institution Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1164

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