461568 Integrating Concepts of Social Responsibility and Cultural Awareness into a Global Service Learning Study Abroad Course
In the summer of 2015, a group of chemical and mechanical engineering undergraduate students from the University of Kentucky Paducah Extended Campus Program participated in a Global Service Learning and Sustainability course focused on implementing a project to convert waste plastic into a sustainable liquid fuel in rural southern India. Service learning projects conducted in other countries often face cultural hurdles that are quite different than in traditional study abroad programs. Working side-by-side with local people requires adapting to cultural practices that may be quite different from the students’ expectations. The learning outcomes for this course included providing students with clear understanding of the key issues of sustainability and sustainable community development in rural and underdeveloped regions and educating them as to how engineers must consider cultural factors when working in underdeveloped regions.
This course included both a traditional classroom lecture component and a hands on service learning project focused on applying the principles of green chemistry, appropriate technology and sustainable engineering to address the problems of waste plastic accumulation in underdeveloped regions. This course was offered as a six-week summer term course in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Global Service Learning and Sustainability course was developed in collaboration with the Organization of Development Action and Maintenance (ODAM), an NGO headquartered in Tiruchuli, India. The case study presented here documents the successful implementation of this technology in Tamil Nadu, India and the cultural hurdles that must be addressed in an international service learning project.