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Service Learning On An International Scale: The Experiences Of Tufts University

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Service Learning Projects

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1109.1 - 10.1109.8

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Paper Authors

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James Limbrunner

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Charline Han

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

Service Learning on an International Scale: The Experiences of Tufts University

Christopher W. Swan, Charline S. Han, and James F. Limbrunner Tufts University

Abstract There has been tremendous growth in the use of service learning in environmental engineering, especially in experiences beyond the U.S. This growth has been fostered by groups such as Global Village Engineers and Engineers Without Borders who seek to help communities in developing nations have a “better way” of life. Tufts University, long recognized for providing service to its host communities in Massachusetts, has also seen an increase in student- driven initiatives that are beyond U.S. borders. Over the last year, students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University have engaged in a number of projects in communities in Nicaragua and Ghana. This paper describes these projects, in terms of the engineering aspects, but also discusses the value these projects have in the education of the involved students. It is concluded that service learning projects, in general, provide a valuable pedagogical tool for educating future engineers.

Introduction The mission statement of Tufts University states it will “offer to …students a rigorous education …that provides the knowledge and intellectual skills to become responsible and productive participants and leaders of society; … to enhance learning and develop the potential of each student beyond, as well as within, the classroom; to encourage public service by students, faculty and staff, and to integrate service activities and experiential learning with teaching and research…” In order to implement this broad mission, the engineering curriculum must address both "hard" and "soft" aspects of environmental problems. In engineering education, technical aspects needed to be an effective environmental engineer come from a variety of disciplines including engineering (civil, mechanical, chemical, etc.), natural sciences (geology, chemistry, physics, biology, etc.) and other specialized disciplines (microbiology, geochemistry, toxicology, etc.). However, effectively developing solutions to environmental problems often involves expertise in addressing non-technical aspects such as project management, communication, local and regional politics, economics, culture, and the social concerns of affected stakeholders. For the past few years, the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University has used components of community-based service learning to enhance the learning experience of students in its environmental engineering curriculum2,3,4. All of these efforts have involved projects and/or curriculum involving local (Boston, MA area) communities. This paper highlights some of the ways community-based service learning, the pedagogy of combining education with community service, has been implemented in international communities. Specifically, the paper presents two projects in developing communities where the efforts of

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Limbrunner, J., & Han, C., & Swan, C. (2005, June), Service Learning On An International Scale: The Experiences Of Tufts University Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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