As a Lead or Head Engineering Learning Assistant, students will have the opportunity to take advantage of a study abroad experience in Brazil to experience interdisciplinary engineering in a new culture. The purpose of this experience is to prepare students with the perspective and understanding needed to teach the importance of understanding diversity and cultural competency in an engineering context. After this experience, ELAs who participated in this experience will work together to create strategies and materials to (1) help other ELAs teach topics such as diversity and global competency and (2) become a part of the ENG100 curriculum.
In 2018, 11 ELAs participated in this program. While abroad, they worked with a local NGO to propose a solution to a transaction validation issue that was present in some recycling cooperatives. Participants worked on teams that were not only interdisciplinary with respect to major of study, these teams also included Brazilian students studying at a local university. Each team worked on a different part of the project, and by the end of the program, students presented this solution to members of the NGO and university faculty from both the University of Illinois and the local university.
In addition to gaining experience using technical skills abroad, students grew as individuals, learning how to relate this experience to their professional, personal, and academic lives. Many students were able to realize the importance of searching for a company that employs a diverse workforce and truly saw the impact of what working on a diverse team actually "means." Furthermore, many students continued their global education through seeking additional global engineering opportunities after this study abroad experience.
Upon returning from the trip, students were asked to prepare materials to train ELAs how to discuss diversity in ENG100, prepare activities to be used in the ENG100 classroom to teach the importance of diversity, and write an essay discussing what they personally learned from the experience.