International experiences are viewed as important components of undergraduate engineering education. Yet little has been done to define global preparedness, specify alternatives for achieving it, or determine to what degree being globally prepared is the result of personal attributes, prior experiences (including pre-college), or specific educational experiences. A collaboration of investigators from four universities (Pittsburgh, Southern California, Lehigh, and Clemson) are investigating how the broad spectrum of international experiences both in and outside of formal curricula impact engineering students’ global preparedness. Now in its fifth year, we have conducted three primary studies. The first was an extensive Delphi survey with subject matter experts. The second consisted of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of students at our four institutions. The third is a much larger survey of engineering students at 15 representative universities across the U.S.
This paper focuses on the results of this third study. At each campus we obtained stratified random samples of freshmen and seniors; in the case of seniors we subdivided the sample into two cohorts – those that had an international experience while an undergraduate student and those that had not participated in an international activity. All students completed a carefully tested instrument that captured their demographics, experiences and a measure of their global preparedness. To determine the latter, we utilized the nationally normed Global Perspective Inventory developed by Braskamp and colleagues. This has enabled us to identify changes in global awareness, knowledge and thinking over the course of the students’ transition from incoming freshman to graduating senior. We report what we have learned from this extensive sample of over 2,500 students. The results of this third study and the two earlier linked studies have resulted in guidelines for engineering administrators and faculty interested in preparing students for the global economy. Similar to our earlier papers, we provide an overview of the updated results of this NSF funded research initiative that has investigated how the various internationally focused learning experiences within engineering (both curricular and co-curricular) impact students’ global preparedness.
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