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Special Session: Developing Intercultural Engineers Through Service

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Special Session: Impacts of Service in Engineering

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1083.1 - 15.1083.13



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Paper Authors

author page

Kurt Paterson Michigan Technological University Orcid 16x16

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

Developing Intercultural Engineers Through Service

Abstract This paper reports on recent efforts to understand the cultural awareness among engineering students. A standard assessment program has been instituted across the various programs at Michigan Technological University with pre-, during-, and post-project phases. The mixed- methods assessment plan consists of surveys, reflection statements, journaling, a wellness indicator, the Intercultural Development Inventory, and project reports. Details of the assessment plan in addition to preliminary analyses will be presented with special attention on lessons for service learning program development.

1. Motivation Now more than ever, it is important for American engineering students to be exposed to and understand the engineering challenges facing the developing world. Not only are significant problems confronting a vast number of people under-served by engineers, future technology investments will be mainly outside the States1. Only with a keen understanding of global diversity can engineers develop effective solutions through innovation within the constraints of available resources, cultural demands, and technological appropriateness. Additionally, considerable insight or potential breakthrough discoveries may be learned from indigenous design and construction techniques. Not surprisingly, expanded learning criteria in emerging Body of Knowledge (BOK) efforts, and various blue-ribbon reports regarding next generation engineering needs, all call for culturally savvy engineers2,3,4,5.

As global megatrends influence the training of engineering students, domestic trends are confounding efforts to meet the demand for engineering professionals; few of the various experiments in engineering education have resulted in notable enrollment increases despite considerable resource expenditures. In the United States engineering continues to struggle to attract students, especially women and minorities. Yet, at most campuses, it is evident that engineering programs which emphasize humanitarian efforts and service to society attract women6,7. An interesting development has been the largely student-led growth of Engineers Without Borders-USA. Nearly 190 university chapters have been started within seven years of the organization’s inception (more than half of the nation’s engineering colleges have a chapter); this phenomena is unprecedented in that it occurred outside the intention of academia or government, and has fueled the creation of similarly-focused curricular programs at many universities8. Most EWB chapters report similar observations: highly motivated students finding a professional passion, of which virtually half are women. One issue in this explosive, grass- roots growth in international service involvement by engineering students is that activity got ahead of understanding; little is known about the impacts of such programs. While some university-specific studies have been conducted9,10, coordinated, multi-institution, long-term assessment efforts are just beginning to examine outcomes for all stakeholders (e.g. students, faculty, university, community partners).


Paterson, K. (2010, June), Special Session: Developing Intercultural Engineers Through Service Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16850

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