July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
The program “Sustainability Across Sectors-Sweden” at Purdue University was developed to help engineering students meet specific learning outcomes required by their majors, including an understanding of how engineering fits into a global, economic, environmental and societal context. The program provided an opportunity for undergraduate engineering students to understand how culture and technology contribute to differences in environmental sustainability practices and environmental quality in Sweden and the United States. Students spent Spring semester completing academic and cohort building activities, and then traveled to Sweden in May. The course combined elements of traditional classroom teaching with experiential activities abroad, to ensure academic rigor while developing intercultural competency. The activities in Sweden were founded on strong partnerships with higher education institutions, including the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Swedish federal agencies, utilities and private companies. Participants interacted with researchers and practitioners from many different sectors (transportation, energy, urban planning, manufacturing, pollution control, and construction) in Sweden during technical visits, seminars, and tours.
Specific learning objectives included: (i) applying material and energy balances to full-scale systems in Sweden, (ii) analyzing how environmental policies are implemented with technical or non-technical solutions in Sweden, and comparisons with the United States, and (iii) evaluating the scientific basis of selected metrics for ‘environmental performance’ for Sweden and the U.S. Students met these objectives by completing written homework assignments, directed discussions and small-group activities, professional communications with the Swedish partners, and a final paper.
Fifty-five engineering students have completed the program. Assessment of students' intercultural competency included pre-program and post-program completion of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), summative teaching evaluations, and a post-program survey of alumni. The Sustainability Across Sectors – Sweden program impacted students’ short- and long-term academic and professional paths. The summative teaching evaluation scores reflect that students gained new cultural perspectives and that the program integrated Swedish culture into the curriculum. Students also recognized the program in the larger context of their engineering major at Purdue University. The short-term benefits continued and evolved to shape students choices regarding graduate school, thesis research topics, additional intercultural and international experiences, and career pathways. Most respondents were located in the United States when they completed the survey. Students also identified specific program elements that were particularly impactful. These elements included technical site visits (manufacturing, infrastructure, water and wastewater treatment plants) and in-depth tours and discussions related to national or municipal governance in Sweden. Several respondents reported a direct impact on the types of projects they chose to work on, or the type of employer they sought. The most recent cohort of students (from 2019) demonstrated advancement along the intercultural competence continuum. The three evaluation methods (summative teaching evaluation, post-program alumni survey, and IDI) were de-coupled, so it is not possible to synthesize responses from each method for individual students. However, results from all assessments are consistent, and suggest that students gained multiple skills by completing a short-term study abroad program.
Hua, I. (2021, July), Short-term Study Abroad: Engineers Gaining Intercultural Competency Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37712
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