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Strategies for Successfully Increasing Engineering Study Abroad Participation

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

International Educational Experiences (1)

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Cynthia B. Paschal Vanderbilt University

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Dr. Paschal is associate dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering and is a faculty member in the department of biomedical engineering. Her many areas of responsibility for the school include study abroad and international partnerships as well as industry relations. She has research experience in medical imaging and engineering education. Paschal earned bachelor's and master's degrees in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the doctor of philosophy degree in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

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Isabelle S. Crist Vanderbilt University Global Education Office

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Isabelle Crist is the Assistant Director of Operations in the Global Education Office at Vanderbilt University. She received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt in Anthropology and Fine Arts and is a fluent French speaker. She has been advising undergraduate study abroad students for over 15 years. Isabelle oversees application management and curricular integration, as well student health, safety, and security. Her interests and responsibilities also include improving access to study abroad for underrepresented students, preparing students to have a successful experience abroad, and mentoring new staff. Isabelle collaborates with faculty from the Vanderbilt School of Engineering to provide study abroad opportunities for Engineering students. As a result of their joint efforts, Vanderbilt has increased the number of Engineering students studying abroad, which now exceeds the national average.

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Christopher J. Rowe Vanderbilt University

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Dr. Christopher J. Rowe, M.Eng., Ed.D., is associate professor of the practice of engineering management and director of the division of general engineering at Vanderbilt University. He holds degrees in biomedical engineering, management of technology, and higher education leadership and policy. His research and teaching interests in engineering education include first-year engineering pedagogy and problem-based learning. His professional areas of expertise include technical project management and technology strategy. He is also communications director for the School of Engineering, past-Chair of the First-year Programs Division of ASEE and member of ASEM.

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The overwhelming majority of Fortune 500 companies have business outside the United States, which emphasizes the need for a workforce with the cultural competence, inter-cultural communication skills, and adaptability necessary to succeed in global endeavors. Toward this end, we have implemented at this institution several specific strategies to increase the percentage of engineering students studying abroad to two to three times the national average. Those strategies are shared here.

Barriers to study abroad for engineering students include demanding curricula with long prerequisite streams, limited foreign language ability, and, as for all students, financial limitations. Consequently, engineering students study abroad at a lower rate than non-engineering peers. Depending on data source and assumptions, approximately 9-13% of 2013/2014 engineering bachelor degree recipients studied abroad. In contrast, at this institution an average of 20% of engineering students in that era studied overseas. Participation continues to rise with ~30% of current seniors having studied abroad. To achieve these results, strategies to address curricular integration, language barriers, and financial obstacles are used. To assist students with curricular integration, engineering faculty and global education professionals collaborate to produce sample curricula that show how students can incorporate a fall or spring semester abroad in a standard four-year, eight-semester graduation plan. Faculty members evaluate all courses to be taken abroad for equivalency to our courses and for suitability for degree credit. Results of each evaluation are posted online by the registrar with clear indication of the number of credit hours to be awarded in each degree requirement category. Language barriers have been addressed by identifying and establishing relationships with 29 programs at overseas universities where students can study engineering subjects in English. Financial barriers are addressed at this institution, where 65% of students receive some sort of financial aid, by flexible and generous financial aid policies that allow the same coverage of fall and spring semesters abroad as on-campus study and provide a competitive scholarship for summer programs. Additional strategies not-specific to engineering also help increase participation. In total, strategies employed at this institution have resulted in study abroad percentages substantially higher than the national average for engineering students.

Paschal, C. B., & Crist, I. S., & Rowe, C. J. (2017, June), Strategies for Successfully Increasing Engineering Study Abroad Participation Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28853

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