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Twelve Years of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs: Engineering in a Global and Societal Context

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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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Paper Authors


Donna M. Ebenstein Bucknell University

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Donna M. Ebenstein is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Bucknell University. She is also the chair of Bucknell University's Committee on Off-Campus Study and Engineering International Education Committee.

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Margot A. Vigeant Bucknell University

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Margot Vigeant is the Robert L. Rooke Professor of chemical engineering. She earned her B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University, and her M.S. and Ph.D., also in chemical engineering, from the University of Virginia. Her primary research focus is on engineering pedagogy at the undergraduate level. She is particularly interested in active, collaborative, and problem-based learning, and how these can be applied to improve conceptual learning. She is also interested in the ways hands-on activities and technology in general and games in particular can be used to improve student engagement.

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Jeffrey C. Evans P.E. Bucknell University

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Jeffrey C. Evans, Ph.D., P.E., F. ASCE is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA.

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A three-week study abroad program for engineering students has been offered thirteen times from May 2004 to May 2016. The intent of the program is to provide an alternative for students who cannot spend a semester or year abroad, enabling more engineering students to gain international experience before they graduate. Students receive one course credit (4 credit hours) for the program, which counts as a free elective or an engineering elective, depending on department. The program was delivered in: the United Kingdom in 2004, 2006 and 2012; Argentina in 2007 and 2013; Switzerland, Germany and France in 2008; Norway and Sweden in 2009; Brazil in 2010; China in 2011; Costa Rica in 2013; New Zealand in 2014; Italy in 2015; and Chile in 2016. Over 280 students and seventeen different faculty members have participated.

This study abroad program was initially designed to address ABET General Criterion 3(h) which notes that graduates must have “the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental and societal context.” Specific ABET educational outcomes for the program include: 1) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context, 2) recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in, life-long learning, and 3) knowledge of contemporary issues. These outcomes have been mapped to ten learning objectives common to all offerings of the course, which are included in the paper.

To meet these educational outcomes, the programs are planned around multifaceted themes accessible to all engineering majors, including: Transportation (UK); Water Resources (Argentina); Engineering in Ancient Lands (Italy, China); Engineering in Extreme Environments (Chile); and Energy and Sustainability (Switzerland/ Germany/France, Norway/Sweden, Brazil, Costa Rica, and New Zealand). As an example of course activities that support the outcomes, in the 2013 program students heard about the economic and political history of Argentina from a former presidential chief of staff, learned about solid waste management in Buenos Aires from a waste management expert, toured two large dams (Itaipu and Yacyreta) and visited several sites of historical and cultural importance. The paper describes the mapping of course activities to learning objectives and educational outcomes.

Student requirements include daily class and field trip attendance, a daily journal and a term paper written and submitted after the students return to the US. Faculty assess student achievement directly through the end-of-course term papers that require students to make explicit connections between course activities (presentations and field trips) and the learning objectives. Self-assessment data have also been gathered for all programs. Both the direct assessment and self-assessment data demonstrate a high level of outcome achievement that has remained consistent throughout all offerings of this course.

Ebenstein, D. M., & Vigeant, M. A., & Evans, J. C. (2017, June), Twelve Years of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs: Engineering in a Global and Societal Context Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29048

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