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                                                  Abroad                                                                                                 By Karen Leggett

                                                                   Encouraging STEm Students to Study Abroad
                                                                                 Traditionally, science, technology, engineering, and math
                                                                                 (STEM) students haven’t gone abroad in large numbers.
                                                                                                     Times are changing.

                                                     ‘‘i             f tHere were a matHematIcs ProGram In HunGarY for st . oLaf coL-
                                                                   LeGe students, wouLd anYone come?”

                                                                       A Hungarian mathematician asked the question of
                                                                   an American colleague in 1983. Almost 30 years later,
                                                                   thousands of students from some 800 U.S. colleges
                                                                   and universities have attended the Budapest Semester
                                                                   in Mathematics, one of the oldest college programs
                                                                                                                              engineering, 1.6 percent in math or computer sci-
                                                                                                                              ence—Blumenthal says the trend line is good. There
                                                                                                                              are more schools starting their own small programs,
                                                                                                                              expanding options, or linking to consortia. The Glob-
                                                                                                                              al Engineering Education Exchange Program (Global
                                                                   specifically aimed at STEM students. “The Budapest         E3) now fosters exchanges among 40 U.S. and 60
                                                although the       Semester has become almost essential for mathemat-         foreign institutions. The two-year-old Research In-
                                                                   ics majors at liberal arts colleges if they are thinking   ternships in Science and Engineering (RISE) enables
                                                                   about graduate school in mathematics,” says Margaret       U.S. undergraduates to work with German doctoral
                                                  of american      Robinson, a mathematics professor at Mount Holyoke.        students in their labs during the summer. Interna-
                                              SteM students            Global experience is increasingly perceived as         tional Student Exchange Programs (ISEP) has 160
                                            studying abroad        essential to career success in science, technology, en-    member institutions and an entire section of its Web
                                                is still small—    gineering, and math. More schools are committing           site promoting education abroad for STEM students,
                                               3.2 percent of      themselves to education abroad as not only desirable,      including opportunities in 15 countries from Austra-
                                                 all education     but expected. Peggy Blumenthal, chief operating of-        lia and France, to Botswana, Sweden, and the United
                                                                   ficer at the Institute for International Education,        Arab Emirates. An ISEP fact sheet debunks myths
                                            abroad students
                                                                   cites the 2008 Newport Declaration to Globalize            about STEM education abroad by pointing out that
                                             in 2008 were in       U.S. Engineering Education and Research in which           spending a semester abroad does not have to be more
                                                 engineering,      representatives of more than 30 institutions agreed        expensive than studying in the United States, many
                                                   1.6 percent     to integrate global education into their engineering       foreign universities offer courses taught in English,
                                                     in math or    curriculum because “it is imperative that all engineer-    and those in countries like Germany, Mexico, France,
                                                      computer     ing students develop the skills and attitudes necessary    and Finland have some of the most high-tech and in-
                                                                   to interact successfully with people from other cul-       novative research institutions in the world.
InternatIonal educator J U LY + AU G .1 1

                                                                   tural and national environments.” At the same time,            A host of scholarship organizations offers incen-
                                            Blumenthal says        Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) launched its        tives for STEM education abroad at the graduate and
                                                the trend line     Rensselaer Engineering Education Across Cultural           undergraduate level: the David L. Boren Scholarships
                                                        is good.   Horizons (REACH) program with the expectation              funded through the Department of Defense, the Ben-
                                                                   that all undergraduate engineering students will par-      jamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program,
                                                                   ticipate in an international experience. With high         the Whitaker International Fellows Program in bio-
                                                                   praise for RPI’s commitment, Blumenthal adds that          medical engineering, Fulbright Scholars, and the
                                                                   “unless you make international experience manda-           Winston Churchill Foundation Scholarships.
                                                                   tory, some professor will say it’s not that important.”        IIE’s 2009 report, Promoting Study Abroad in Sci-
                                                                       Although the percentage of American STEM               ence and Technology Fields, says “curricular innovation,
                                                                   students studying abroad is still small—3.2 percent        international collaborative research, development of
                                                                   of all education abroad students in 2008 were in           dual/joint-degree programs across borders and distance

                                                                                                                                   “I gained international work experience,
                                                                                                                               learned German, and was paid in euros. I
                                                                                                                               also made lifelong friends in Barcelona,
                                                                                                                               Paris, and Berlin,” said Payam Sasha Eslami,
                                                                                                                               an industrial engineering student at Georgia
                                                                                                                               Tech who interned at Continental AG.
                                                                                                                                   Like many of her counterparts at other
                                                                                                                               universities, Donohue says 50 percent of her
                                                                                                                               leads for new internships come from faculty.
                                                                                                                               She worked with the U.S. Chamber of Com-
                                                                                                                               merce in Egypt to start programs there and
                                                                                                            University of
                                                                                                           Rhode Island        is beginning to work in Jordan. Donohue
                                                                                                            class of 2012      notes that the cultural transition has been
                                                                                                        student colleen
                                                                                                          Grinham, who         most challenging in Japan, where interns are
                                                                                                          is majoring in       at the bottom of the ladder in a very hierar-
                                                                                                            German and
                                                                                                             engineering       chical, traditional culture.
                                                                                                           interned with           Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
                                                                                                             Bayer AG in
                                                                                                                               requires all students to complete three proj-
                                                                                                               Germany.        ects, including an interdisciplinary project
                                                                                                                               at one of 26 overseas project centers. Each
                                                                                                                               project center hosts 24 students and two fac-
                             learning will all be needed to provide students   the engineering program, “and then they         ulty members for eight weeks. Students pay
                             with an international perspective and to pro-     will spend six months at Hasbro in China.”      the regular WPI tuition plus additional costs
                             duce globally competent professionals.” The       Sophomores and juniors in the program           that can be included in refigured financial
                             greatest proliferation of such programs is        now live in language dormitories at URI.        aid packages. A faculty director helps iden-
                             in the engineering field, where ABET—ac-          Berka is convinced that the living and learn-   tify projects and a local coordinator provides
                             crediting agency for college and university       ing community contributes to the student        continuity. In Venice WPI students in electri-
                             programs in applied science, computing, en-       success and language retention.                 cal and mechanical engineering and physics
                             gineering, and technology—says it is eager            Several schools have incorporated in-       developed a system to evaluate the condition
                             to facilitate innovation. ABET Executive Di-      ternational experiences into their existing     of decorative outdoor wrought iron.
                             rector Michael Milligan adds, “We are 100         work-coop programs. Debbie Donohue,                 WPI’s Director of Global Operations
                             percent behind international engagement…          director of the Georgia Tech Work Abroad        Natalie Mello has been honored both for the
                             we accredit 180 programs in 20 countries.”        Program, says the International Plan at         school’s project-based approach but also the
                             One track at the ABET conference in October       Georgia Institute of Technology was created     training program and operational handbook
                             is devoted exclusively to education abroad.       in 2005 to increase the number of under-        developed for all resident faculty advisers at
                                                                               graduate students who graduate with global      the overseas project sites. Mello says bringing
                             Sending engineers                                 competence in their major. It requires profi-   in outside experts to provide cross-cultural,
                             overseas                                          ciency in a foreign language and a minimum      medical, and emergency safety training has
                                                                                                                                                                                 J U LY + AU G .1 1

                             The University of Rhode Island’s (URI)            of 26 weeks of international work, research,    been well worth the investment.
                             23-year-old International Engineering             or study. Internships range from three to           At Bucknell, the engineering school in-
                             Program offers dual degrees in a foreign          12 months. Students do not receive course       cludes international experience in its vision
                             language and engineering in five years.           credit for the internship but most are paid.    for all graduates. Bucknell offers an “in-
                                                                                                                                                                                    InternatIonal educator

                             During the fourth year, students study at an      In 2005, 31 students went to 11 countries.      troduction to study abroad” for first-year
                             overseas technical school for one semester,       Last year, 215 students went to 30 countries.   engineering students; soon the session will
UniverSitY oF rhoDe iSlanD

                             taking cross-cultural and language courses,       Donohue is trying to promote longer stays       be available online. Jennifer Ellis Fritz, the
                             as well as engineering courses in the target      and ultimately hopes to have everyone grad-     assistant director for international dduca-
                             language. The second semester includes an         uate from Georgia Tech with an international    tion, begins advising students as soon as
                             internship. “We send mechanical engineers         experience. In 2010, 41 percent of Georgia      they show the slightest interest to make
                             to Hasbro in Rhode Island for the summer,”        Tech undergraduates participated in one of      sure they can make education abroad fit
                             explains Sigrid Berka, executive director of      the school’s international programs.            into their degree plans. Students receive

                                            one credit for a three-week summer pro-                  a host of scholarship organizations offers incentives
                                            gram called Engineering 290, which is led by                for SteM education abroad at the graduate and
                                            engineering faculty and offered in a different           undergraduate level: the david L. Boren Scholarships
                                            country each year. It includes a classroom                    funded through the department of defense,
                                            focus on global ethical, environmental, and
                                                                                                       the Benjamin a. Gilman international Scholarship
                                            economic issues plus company visits.
                                               Drexel University was an early participant
                                                                                                     program, the Whitaker international Fellows program
                                            in Global E3 exchange programs and now                  in biomedical engineering, Fulbright Scholars, and the
                                            has its own cooperative agreements with                       Winston churchill Foundation Scholarships.
                                            schools like NTU in Singapore. Students
                                            must pass their courses, explains Assistant       cient engineering at Macchu Picchu in Peru.       derstanding among deans on campus. Have
                                            Vice President Daniela Ascarelli, but grades         Regine Lambrech, the former director of        them visit overseas centers so that it’s not
                                            come back from overseas as credit-no credit,      global initiatives and education at Columbia      just paperwork flowing through the offices.
                                            which is reassuring to some students. As-         University, believes it’s best to organize en-    They melt when they see the opportunity
                                            carelli also notes that more and more partner     gineering internships after the junior year,      that being abroad brings to students.”
                                            institutions are offering courses in English.     when students have some engineering ex-               The University of Colorado at Boulder
                                               The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson         perience and can be useful to an employer.        encourages all students to have at least one
                                            School of Engineering touts its Plus3 pro-        “Each side gets a good look at the other,” says   international experience. Students are able
                                            gram—three credits for two weeks overseas         Lambrech. Should there be resistance on           to study at partner universities, earn an In-
                                            with engineering and business faculty. “It lays   the home campus, Lambrech advises taking          ternational Engineering Certificate, or work
                                            the foundation for longer stays,” says Kristine   faculty to visit foreign labs to increase their   for an overseas company during the sum-
                                            Lalley, director of international engineer-       comfort level. Martha Merritt, associate          mer. Three students were test driving cars
                                            ing programs, including alternative energy        dean at the University of Chicago, echoes         for BMW while another worked on a space
                                            research projects in Brazil or the study of an-   that sentiment: “Build a community of un-         project in Milan. “You need to start early
                                                                                                                                                with students and plant the seed,” says Sher-
                                                                                                                                                ry Snyder, director of student programs.
                                                                                                                                                    The University of Colorado is also home
                                             The Student’s Solution for                                                                         to Engineers Without Borders (EWB),
                                             Any Travel Emergency
                                                                                                                                                which collaborates with local partners in
                                             Following a major earthquake, a                                                                    developing countries to implement sustain-
                                             student is trapped by debris from the                                                              able engineering projects. “We started with
                                             dormitory floor above her...
                                                                                                                                                18 students and faculty in Belize in 2002; in
                                             Be prepared.                                                                                       2010, we sent 1,297 students to partner with
                                                                                                                                                240 communities in 40 countries,” says Jenny
                                             It Could Happen to You™                                                                            Starkey, public relations manager. There are
                                                                                                                                                nearly 200 university chapters of EWB, initi-
                                                 Critical emergency resources students
                                                 need during any travel emergency,                                                              ated by students with faculty and professional
                                                 anywhere in the world:                                                                         advisers. “These students want to be part of
                                                 Emergency Medical and                                                                          something much bigger,” says Starkey. “EWB
                                                 Political Evacuation                                                                           requires relationships to be built through
InternatIonal educator J U LY + AU G .1 1

                                                 Natural Disaster Evacuation                                                                    different cultures, requiring people to listen
                                                 Emergency Return Home due                                                                      actively, and engage in the community.”
                                                 to family medical emergency
                                                 24 Hour Nurse and Legal Helplines                                                              beyond engineering
                                                 Medical Referrals from our                                                                     “There are so many solutions and opinions
                                                 comprehensive international database                                                           lurking around every corner,” blogged an Au-
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                                                                                                                                                children in Tanzania, where math education
                                                                                                 Gradient                                       Professor Lisa Kasmer launched a program
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sity in Michigan. “If you can do well teaching                           the biggest problem turned out to be ob-          Budapest program alumni now work for
in Tanzania for four weeks, building relation-                           taining specialized work visas for students       the National Security Agency, airlines, tech-
ships with kids with whom you have nothing                               involved in direct patient care. Palumbo is       nology start-ups, Microsoft, and Apple, says
in common, you will be ready to go as a stu-                             now investigating the feasibility of moving       Paul Humke, a professor at St. Olaf College
dent teacher.” Kasmer admits that establishing                           the program to Canada or Great Britain.           who is also the North American director
and coordinating a solo program like this is                                 Also on a very small scale, zoology pro-      for the Budapest program. Humke was
not for the faint of heart. “Make contacts, do                           fessor John Cavitt at Weber State University      there at the beginning of the Budapest Se-
the ground work, and get it well thought out                             in Utah coordinates student exchanges with        mester more than 30 years ago. “I had no
before you propose your idea to the interna-                             the University of Nayarit in Mexico. Each         idea what I was doing. I just knew it was a
tional committee,” she advises.                                          year, a few American and Mexican biology          good thing. It has enriched my life in amaz-
    Kathy Palumbo, director of nursing                                   students compare the behavior of migra-           ing ways.” And students’ lives as well, of
at Genesee Community College, has es-                                    tory birds that winter on the western coast       course. “The courses are intense enough to
tablished a brand new nursing exchange                                   of Mexico and summer around Bear River            satisfy the next Fermat, yet it’s such a close
program with Southbank Institute of                                      Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. “Many of           knit and enthusiastic environment that you
Technology in Brisbane, where a Genesee                                  our students have never been out of state,”       can’t help but be pulled into the complex
faculty member used to teach. Palumbo                                    says Cavitt, “One is now doing graduate           and fascinating world of mathematics,” said
felt it would be valuable for her nursing                                work in tropical biology.” Now Cavitt is team     Chris Zanoni, who went to Budapest from
students to have a concentrated, hands-on                                teaching a course in Spanish, sociology, and      the University of Wisconsin. “Mix it all in
experience in a universal health care system,                            zoology. After six weeks in class, 30 students    a world as warm and friendly as Budapest,
interacting with patients in a different, but                            will go to a fishing village in Mexico where      and it’s paradise.”                        ie
still English-speaking country. During the                               the local leaders have asked for help in re-
                                                                                                                           kAreN leggett is a freelance writer in
pilot project in 2010, two students worked                               storing a mangrove forest.                        Washington, D.C. her last article for IE was
side-by-side with nurses in Australia. In ad-                                The math program in Budapest began            “Water, Water…anywhere?” in the july/
dition to the high cost of living in Brisbane,                           with a few professors who were friends.           august 2010 issue.

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