Perspective: Broader Horizons
By Dean Joseph J. Helble
For more than 50 years, study abroad has been an important component of a Dartmouth education. Dartmouth routinely ranks first among Ivy League institutions in the percentage of students undertaking an international academic experience and has one of the highest levels of participation nationally. More than 60 percent of Dartmouth’s class of 2010 earned academic credit for a language or foreign study program, an impressive increase from the slightly more than 50 percent participation levels seen as recently as five years ago.
Perhaps even more impressive is the growing level of participation of engineering students in Dartmouth’s international study programs. In the class of 2008 35 percent of engineering A.B. recipients earned academic credit for study abroad. In the class of 2009 the level grew to 41 percent participation; in the class of 2010 it reached 52 percent, approaching the levels seen for Dartmouth as a whole.
In a world increasingly defined by global markets, capital flows, and collaborative scientific and design teams, providing engineering students with opportunities for a substantive international experience is a priority for Thayer School. Our students have always taken advantage of Dartmouth’s language and foreign study programs in arts and sciences, but in recent years we have looked for ways to provide our students with an international engineering educational experience. By studying engineering in an international setting, taught by faculty from that country, while sitting in the classroom and working in the laboratory with engineering students from that country, Thayer students are able to experience not just a different culture and language, but a different approach to technology development. This experience will serve them well when they find themselves part of an international project development team at an early stage of their careers.
Since 2001 Thayer students, primarily at the B.E. and master’s levels, have been able to study mechanical engineering at Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg, Germany. In 2008 we added our first formal A.B. engineering exchange program, with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Through this exchange, a small group of “Chula” students comes to Hanover each fall to participate in our project-based, hands-on approach to engineering education. A group of Thayer A.B. students then travels to Bangkok each January to spend a semester studying engineering in the structured, lecture-centered format characteristic of engineering education in much of Asia [see “Travelers’ Tales”].
We are in the process of adding two new exchange programs for A.B. students. We have sought partner institutions that provide a high-quality engineering education in a region where technology-driven economic growth is of primary importance. In fall 2011 we will initiate our next exchange program in partnership with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. We are working on another such university partnership for 2012 as we look to further develop our strategic focus on Asia and provide a range of international academic opportunities for our students.
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