Breakout session A:
Overcoming barriers to providing international experiences...

Breakout session A
Overcoming barriers to providing international experiences for undergraduate engineering students: A WPI case study

Sataurday, November 15, 2003
10:30 - 12:00 am

Natalie A. Mello, Director of Global Operations, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division- Worcester Polytechnic Institute

There has long been a call for changes in engineering education by both representatives of academia and industry. The breadth of skills needed by undergraduate engineers in the 21st century is also addressed by agencies that help shape engineering and science curricula. And today's students are growing up in an increasingly shrinking world, with an expectation of international travel sometime in their academic experience. Yet despite that recognition by these agencies and students' desire somewhere along the way, the international experience doesn't seem to happen for most undergraduate engineers. The barriers to international engineering study are multidimensional and include student barriers, faculty barriers, and institutional barriers.

Yet WPI has found ways to overcome these barriers and has been providing an international experience for its graduates since 1980 -- currently more than 50% of each graduating class has an international experience. Our session will attempt to answer three important questions: What institutional structures make our program work? How do we know the program works? And more importantly, how can others identify the barriers at their own institutions and then overcome them?