461568 Integrating Concepts of Social Responsibility and Cultural Awareness into a Global Service Learning Study Abroad Course

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Grand Ballroom B (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Jeffrey R. Seay, Ph.D., P.E., Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Kentucky, Paducah, KY and Chandni Joshi, Chemical Engineering, University of Kentucky College of Engineering, Paducah, KY

Engineers generally tend to be technically oriented and results focused. Meeting technical challenges is what motivates many engineers. However, it is important for engineers to realize that they are part of a global community and that the processes and products they design can have far reaching impacts. This is especially true in developing countries where even technically well-conceived projects may not fit the needs of the communities for which they are intended. Additionally, cultural differences complicate the work environment. Students engaged in global service learning projects need to understand the role engineers play in society. Solving technical challenges is only one aspect of the engineer’s job. Increasingly, engineers must consider the broader impacts of their design choices. This poster presentation will include a case study that documents the organization of a Global Service Learning course that introduces the students to the concepts of social responsibility and cultural awareness.

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.

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See more of this Session: Poster Session: Chemical Engineering Education
See more of this Group/Topical: Education Division