Purdue explores how work and study abroad programs impact engineering students after graduation
|November 2, 2023
Do global study and work abroad programs really make a difference for engineering students and, if so, how? A $388K award from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Engineering Education and Centers will allow Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education to partner with its Office of Professional Practice to gain new insights into global career outcomes in engineering, the nature of global engineering work, and the ways in which engineers engage in lifelong global learning.
A research team lead by Assistant Professor of Engineering Education Kirsten Davis and Associate Director for Professional Practice Joe Tort will conduct a multi-year case study involving three long-running global engineering programs: 1) Purdue’s Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education (GEARE), 2) the University of Rhode Island International Engineering Program, and 3) the University of Cincinnati International Co-op Program.
Marketed as Purdue’s premier international work experience program, GEARE provides an opportunity for engineering students to integrate language study, study abroad, cultural training, domestic and international work/research experiences, and global design team projects into their engineering curriculum. Students completing the program earn a Global Engineering Studies Minor.
“In running study abroad programs like GEARE for engineering students, Purdue aims to prepare them for successful global engineering careers. Our project will be the first to explore the long-term impacts of these programs to see if they are accomplishing the goal,” said Davis, whose previous research has studied student learning during and right after students’ study abroad.
The three-year study—Exploring the Impact of Global Undergraduate Experiences on Engineers' Career Pathways and Approaches to Engineering Work—will follow up with alumni of global engineering programs years later to see how their study abroad experiences influenced their post-graduation career trajectories. Specifically, the study will look at 1) how global career outcomes compare between engineers who participated in global programs as undergraduate students and those who did not; 2) what global experience, global self-concept, and career choice variables are predictors of global career outcomes; and 3) how global experiences during the undergraduate years and after entering the workforce influence engineers' approaches to engineering work and career choices. The team will compare these results to responses from engineering alumni in similar disciplines and industry sectors.
“The results from this research study are anticipated to lead to recommendations for the design of GEARE and the design of other global engineering programs. It also will provide recommendations for the practicing engineers seeking global professional development opportunities,” said Tort, who oversees the GEARE program.