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The WCOE International Initiative: A Bold Requirement for Engineering Undergraduates

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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 (2)

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Zaida M Gracia Texas Tech University

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Zaida Gracia is the Assistant Academic Dean for the International Programs at the Whitacre College of Engineering. As part of the International Program’s staff for the WCOE, she joined TTU in 2013 and since then she has established many collaboration agreements with international universities to increase the recruitment of graduate students, and increase and diversify the opportunities for the engineering undergraduate students to fulfil their international requirement. In March 2016, Zaida became an ELATE@ Drexel (Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering) alumnus presenting an institutional action project titled “Raiders Abroad: A sustainable model for globally competent engineering students” that was adopted by the WCOE. The project, based on the work of cross functional teams established a strategic plan for 2016-2020 focusing on student participation and assessment on programs abroad and the development of a travel scholarship fund for students under financial hardship in the college.
Mrs. Gracia brings twenty five years of experience as a mathematics’ professor at the Sacred Heart University in Puerto Rico. She led successful initiatives to increase minorities and women representation in STEM fields such as federal grant funded projects, school teacher seminars, the launching of a science journalism program and the establishment of an annual Science Festival.
Zaida is currently working on her Ph.D. on Higher Education Leadership at TTU, has a Master in Science from Michigan State University and a Bachelor’s in Science from the University of the Sacred Heart in Puerto Rico.

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Albert Sacco Jr. Texas Tech University

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Al Sacco Jr. is dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering at Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas.
Before coming to Texas Tech, he was the George A. Snell Distinguished Professor of Engineering and the director of
the Center for Advanced Microgravity Materials Processing at Northeastern University.
He flew as the payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia on shuttle mission STS-73 in 1995. The 16-day
mission aboard Columbia focused on materials science, biotechnology, combustion science and fluid mechanics
contained within the pressurized Spacelab module.
Born in Boston, Mass., Sacco completed a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northeastern University in
Boston in 1973, and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. He
then joined the faculty of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, becoming a full professor and serving as the chair of the
chemical engineering department from 1989 until 1997, when he joined the faculty at Northeastern. He has consulted for
numerous companies in the fields of catalysis, solid/gas contacting, zeolite synthesis and applications, and equipment
design for space applications.
Sacco has more than 192 publications (including book chapters) in the areas of carbon filament initiation and growth,
transition metal and acid catalyst and their deactivation, and zeolite synthesis, and he has been the principal investigator
on more than $24 million in research grants.
Using his space flight experience, Sacco has given more than 300 presentations to approximately 27,000 K-12 teachers
and their students as a means to motivate students to consider careers in science and engineering. He is a fellow of the
American Institute of Chemical Engineers and in 2004 was elected to the International Academy of Astronautics

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The WCOE International Initiative: A bold requirement for engineering undergraduates.

In order to prepare our graduates for the ever-changing global landscape, in the Fall 2013, the Whitacre College of Engineering (WCOE) at Texas Tech University established the International Experience Initiative (IEI), a bold initiative that requires all undergraduate students in the college of engineering to complete an experience abroad before graduation. In addition, the IEI, aligned with the college’s funding priorities for years 2013-2018, contributes to increase the college global presence by increasing graduate international enrollment, increasing research related activities and support with international partners, expanding international partnerships, and strengthening academic quality and reputation. To support the IEI, the college developed a strategic plan for years 2013-2018. The plan included a budget increase from $100,000 to $800,000 per year for the international programs office to invest in office staff and operations. New priorities for 2013-2018 consisted in 1) the refocusing on academic cost neutral offerings abroad after identifying the need to create more internships, research and service programs abroad, 2) a program assessment plan and 3) the development of a travel scholarship fund for students under financial hardship which currently represent a 27% of the undergraduate population.

Results from these priorities from 2013-2016 include: 1) on academic offerings and enrollment, a 565% increase in abroad enrollment was achieved by growing from 79 to 525 students. By 2016, many programs in new locations were created, mostly non-faculty led study abroad programs and also many internship opportunities abroad. 2) A new assessment plan of all program components is in its implementation and testing phase and will be ready to be used by January 2017. 3) A travel scholarship fund is has been developed, consisting of endowed funds and donations/gifts. A cost comparison study of our programs abroad vs on campus costs was used together with data from the financial aid office on the amount of students under financial hardship to determine how many students needed financial aid and what programs /locations were the most affordable. It was concluded that the Americas is the most affordable option for summer programs and the Asia/Africa/Australia/NZ regions are the most affordable option for semesters abroad. The average cost of airfare equivalent to $1,500 was used to calculate the travel scholarship budget needed per year. Given 150 students per year are under financial hardship in the college and each would receive $1,500 on average, $225,000 per year is the minimum needed amount in the travel scholarship fund. As a result of these findings, the WCOE established as funding priority for 2016-2020 to develop at least a $5 million travel scholarship endowed fund to guarantee the sustainability of this wonderful initiative.

Gracia, Z. M., & Sacco, A. (2017, June), The WCOE International Initiative: A Bold Requirement for Engineering Undergraduates Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29022

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