According to Virginia Tech University press release, engineering students have participated in a six-week study abroad to experience international engagements and enrich their skills to help meet the demands of globalization.
The Virginia Tech sponsored course, known as Project Management in the Global Village, provided students of the engineering career a first hand look at problems that engineers will face in the future. They worked alongside with Vietnamese community professionals to perform on-site technical assessments and sociological factors for the development of several villages in the Mekong Delta.
In addition to the 20 Virginia Tech students who participated of the international engagement, Wake forest University, the University of Miami, and the University of Maryland also sent students.
Anthony Songer, Virginia Tech associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, is one of the faculty who traveled with the students. He believes that this was a different kind of summer experience for these students. According to Songer, students were able to get a hand-on experience in Hoa (located in southern Vietnam near the city of Can Tho). They were able to combine theory and knowledge to work side by side with the local people.
They were able to see how the world is, they were able to see the real world, just as it is, and not just by how it is described in books and papers. They applied all the social and technical knowledge in a complex social, economic, political, historical, and cultural setting.
They performed a service in the Vietnamese villages. They participated in 3 projects: a bridge and two “Mercy Houses.” Mercy houses were built under the concept of Habitat for Humanity, where villagers assist with the building effort.
This experience is part of the change in engineering education’s that is called for by the National Academy of Engineering’s. The Engineer of 2020 is a National report that outlines the challenges and needs for the engineer of the future.
The report calls for profound changes in structure, policies, and practices of engineering education. These students are starting to build the leadership qualities needed in an engineer through hard work, learning and essay writing. Engineers need to realize that what they do can make a difference in people’s future.
According to Songer, this experience created was learning environment around an authentic problem not a theoretical one. They had to balance technical, social, cultural, environmental, economic, and sustainability variable in a multidisciplinary and a multinational approach.
You cannot get that from the books or “staying at home”. You need to get out and do the job.