Global exchange programs build cultural diversity in engineering
1:25 p.m., Sept. 6, 2012--Devon Bond has never considered herself much of a world traveler, so when she began looking for summer classes last spring, she hardly envisioned spending six weeks in Beijing, China.
But that’s just what the University of Delaware senior did when she joined the first contingent of UD faculty and students to participate in the UD-Peking University (PKU) Global Educational Exchange Initiative (GLOBEX) program.
“This unique program provided me the opportunity to work with people around the world. We all had different cultural backgrounds, customs, manners and languages, but instead of letting them stop us, we turned our differences into advantages,” explained Bond, who took classes alongside students from Chile, Japan and China.
Students in the GLOBEX program, which was initiated in 2010, took courses taught by a UD professor, courses offered by PKU’s other GLOBEX partners or elective PKU courses related to Chinese language, history and culture. For Bond, a UD senior studying engineering, the experience was as much a lesson in collaboration as in engineering. She recalled one instance where she and a Japanese student were able to help one another with a homework problem.
“I was better able to explain the question in English so that he could fully understand and, in return, he explained the physics concepts that were new to me,” she said.
Engineering faculty who participated in the inaugural GLOBEX exchange included Babatunde A. Ogunnaike, interim dean of the College of Engineering, and Michael Santare and Bingqing Wei, professors of mechanical engineering.
“I found Beijing to be an exciting, vibrant city and I enjoyed the experience of living and working there. I was impressed with the students, and I think it was a great cultural and intellectual experience for them to live and study together,” remarked Santare.
Colombian exchange continues at UD
In a similar program, 16 visiting scholars from universities in Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia conducted research with UD faculty this summer as part of the College of Engineering Summer Research Program.
The students were hosted by faculty members in the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer and Information Sciences, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
The initiative is part of a vibrant UD partnership established in 2008 with a consortium of Colombian universities to attract top doctoral students to UD. Since the program’s inception, close to 30 doctoral students have enrolled in UD’s graduate program in engineering.
Expanding world view
This fall, four students from the Colombian exchange program will continue their research at UD and consider pursuing graduate studies at the University. Next spring, PKU students involved in the GLOBEX program will begin coursework and undergraduate research with UD faculty, while collaborative research initiatives between Chinese and UD faculty begin to take shape.
“Expanding our world view is a critical component to solving global problems,” said Ogunnaike. “Initiatives like the College of Engineering’s GLOBEX partnership with PKU, China’s Harvard, and summer research program with Colombian universities allow UD faculty and students to establish global relationships that will help us make progress on these important problems.”
Article by Karen B. Roberts