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Summer On Site Immersion In French Language And Engineering

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Venturing Out: Service Learning, Study Abroad, and Criterion H

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1121.1 - 13.1121.13



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Paper Authors


David Ollis North Carolina State University

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DAVID F. OLLIS is Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. His recent NSF DTS grant "CROSS-COLLEGE COLLABORATIONS" has included engineering participation in stateside and overseas
foreign language courses in Spanish and French.

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Anthony Smith is Professor of Chemistry and Director of International Relations, CPE-Lyon, Lyon, France. He is the Director of the CPE-Lyon Summer Program which combines French language instruction with a laboratory experience in chemical engineering and chemistry.

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



Globalization will require production of engineers with not only technical but also foreign language competence. We describe a new summer program at a French engineering school, CPE-Lyon, which provides both French language instruction and engineering laboratory experience. The desired result is an immersion in a foreign culture and language as well as demonstrated use of a second language as a future professional tool, not just a retrospective pathway to a past literature. This new six week for-credit classroom plus laboratory program is a major revision of an earlier CPE-Lyon four week, non-credit language and technology classroom experience begun in 20001.


This paper presents initial US student summer experiences in an overseas, foreign language immersion setting which involves, in parallel, French language instruction, technical lectures, and a chemistry/chemical engineering laboratory course. As both foreign language instruction and undergraduate engineering laboratories are widely available at engineering campuses around the world, this configuration would seem to be eminently transportable. We frame our report in light of US engineering education needs, then present our particular French experience which illustrates a novel pedagogical approach.

US Engineering education needs

The combination of foreign language instruction with an engineering laboratory course is not intuitive, but is consistent with the need for an integrative approach to undergraduate education. Such integration to achieve the roundly educated engineer of the ABET EC 2000 criteria is consistent with Eric Ashby’s early claim2 in Technology and the Academics that “The path to culture should be through a man’s specialism, not by by-passing it… The sine qua non for a man who desires to be cultured is a deep and enduring enthusiasm to do one thing excellently.” We propose that Ashby would include the integration of language and cultures into an engineering education.

Current US engineering education requires contributions from both science and engineering study on the one hand, and from the arts,humanities and social sciences on the other. These parts of our “two cultures” are better received when they can be related one to another. This theme was voiced strongly four decades ago by Samuel Florman in his Engineering and the Liberal Arts, where he argued3 that “unless the liberal arts can be approached through engineering, they will seem lifeless and frivolous to those of us who are professional engineers.” Teachers of writing agree with Florman’s insistence that students work relate to their disciplinary focus. For example, the editors Leithauser and Bell note that “Student writers often do better work when readings reflect their special

Ollis, D., & Smith, A. (2008, June), Summer On Site Immersion In French Language And Engineering Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4132

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