VEIL - Colombia

This year, Global Engineering Programs & Partnerships developed a Virtual Experiential Intercultural Learning (VEIL) program with one of Purdue’s strategic partners in Colombia: Universidad de los Andes (Uniandes). The program follows a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) model that connects two courses, one at Purdue and one at Uniandes. Students earn 3 academic credits at both locations.

On the Purdue side, this course counts towards the Global Engineering Studies Minor and it is an advanced level of the Global Engineering Learning Community courses. In this project-based course, Cross-Cultural Leadership Skills for Engineers, teams composed of students from Purdue and Uniandes work on a project related to one of NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering, and/or one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students present their project as an academic poster in the Shah Family Global Innovation Lab Expo and receive mentorship from expert faculty members as they develop their projects.

In addition, Uniandes houses the Center for implementation of the  SDGs in Latin America; so students had the added benefit of receiving feedback from the center’s Director, Felipe Castro, who oversees real-life projects related to the sustainable goals in the region. The Purdue-Uniandes VEIL incorporated global and intercultural competence development into its curriculum. In addition to having dedicated sessions to explore related topics, students had the opportunity to work with developmental tools such as the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), the Beliefs, Events and Values Inventory (BEVI), and the Intercultural Communication Edge (icEdge), as well as receiving one-on-one intercultural coaching and a tailored development plan.

This program was partially funded by the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund and CILMAR. We are very grateful to all faculty mentors: Dr. Silvia Caro, Dr. Luis Alejandro Camacho,  Dr. Guillermo Jiménez, Dr. Gwendolyn Peyre, Dr. Jaime Plazas, Dr. Juan Pablo Rodríguez, Dr. Michael Bressan, Dr. Alba Ávila, Felipe Castro Pachón; and to Lorena Méndez García, Academic Programs Coordinator for the College of Engineering and Yadira Mogollón, Head of the Mobility Office in the Office of International Affairs at Uniandes. 

Purdue-Uniandes VEIL testimonials

Top left: Samuel Ríos (Uniandes); top right: Adia Raya (Purdue University); bottom left: Laura Núñez (Uniandes); bottom right: Juan Diego Cortés (Uniandes).

Adia Raya, Mechanical Engineering student, Purdue University.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began I was deeply upset because my study abroad opportunity was cancelled and all hopes of gaining cross-cultural experiences seemed lost as the world moved online. However, through this move online I was introduced to the VEIL programs at Purdue. The Purdue-Uniandes VEIL Program has been the best thing to come out of this global pandemic for me. Not only have I been able to work on a real global engineering project, but I am able to continue developing my cultural competency and global awareness. My team of four includes three students from Uniandes and myself; and we have been working on a project surrounding the Sustainable Development Goal of providing clean water to the world. We will be presenting our poster at the 2021 Shah Family Global Innovation Lab’s Expo. Not only have I been given the chance to work on a meaningful engineering project through this program, but I have been able to make strong connections with my teammates. What started as four students working on a project, quickly became four members of a family spending hours on virtual calls learning about each other and talking. Three of my greatest friends now live thousands of miles away and that would not have been possible or even seemed like a possibility to me before I became a part of this program. I attribute the general success of our team to the willingness we all have to learn about each other and make meaningful contributions to all of our work. We go above and beyond to support each other in this program. The VEIL program has given me so many opportunities to grow and explore intercultural competency. I would highly recommend taking a VEIL class if there is the opportunity, I have loved every minute of my experiences.


Juan Diego Cortés C., Mechanical Engineering and Physics student, Universidad de los Andes.

The course “Cross-Cultural Leadership Skills for Engineers” has enabled me to interact with other engineering students and discuss with them possible solutions to global problems, such as the water crisis. I have been delighted to meet brilliant and very hardworking fellow classmates with whom we have efficiently worked on every task. Despite being an online course, for me it has been amazing to share ideas and experiences with students from Purdue University twice a week as in any other class at Uniandes. Personally, intercultural exchanges, such as this one, motivate me to continue learning and thinking about worldwide problems as opportunities to improve our way of living.


Dr. Silvia Caro, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Engineering, Universidad de los Andes.

A decade ago, it was hard to imagine an engineering course where students from universities located in different countries had the possibility to develop teamwork and global competences, while proposing a solution for a local engineering challenge. This Purdue-Uniandes VEIL course is all this and much more. It is a new initiative of a long-term partnership between Purdue and Uniandes, and it is also an extraordinary educational experiment that is paving the path for what will soon become a standard education practice. I have had the chance to directly participate in this course. Here, I am enjoying learning about global competences from the vast knowledge that Dr. Heidi Parker has on this topic, while I’m also helping to guide the groups of students in their process of finding sounded engineering solutions to real-world problems. This has been a terrific experience for me, Heidi and the students. I’m looking forward to the final results of this course, and to continue working with the College of Engineering at Purdue in similar future initiatives!

VEIL - China

In the backdrop of the COVID19 pandemic, many engineering undergraduates are sadly barred from traveling overseas for research, work or study abroad. In respond to our students’ desire for global experiences, Purdue ME and Global Engineering Programs and Partnerships (GEPP) office has turned the travel challenge during the pandemic into a new opportunity for virtual cross-cultural teamwork experience by offering ME 463 global senior design session.

This effort is impossible without the support from the ME school at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), a decade long strategic partner with Purdue ME. The goals of the global senior design course are for the students from both sides to apply the engineering design process to the designs of various engineering components and systems, with an emphasis on digital mathematical modeling, analysis, simulation, prototyping and testing, to physically construct and test low-, mid-, and high-fidelity prototypes, and to effectively collaborate as international teams to solve industry sponsored projects through both virtual and physical artifacts.

In the summer of 2020, the ME schools from Purdue and SJTU started the conversation to create the pilot course for 2021 Spring Semester. By the time of Thanksgiving 2020, twelve students (six from Purdue and six from SJTU) have been recruited and met for the first time on Zoom with culturally-rich and animated conversations about each other, the tradition of Thanksgiving, and how to collaborate as a team in the upcoming spring. Below you can catch a glimpse of this ongoing global senior design course from comments made by the student and faculty members involved in this course.

VEIL - China Student testimonials

Lindsay Rubin, Purdue ME

(image courtesy of Lindsay and her teammates. The basis of the design came from the SJTU students, but Lindsays team changed it based on their innovation goal of a removable shaft. The SJTU students have their own design to achieve this goal.)

Before the semester started I was invited to join a global Senior Design team working with students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I’m now working on a team with two other Purdue students and three SJTU students. We’re working with a sponsor to redesign Ultrasonic Shears, an expensive but beneficial medical device used for cutting and sealing tissue and blood vessels.

Working on a global team has its challenges, such as communication difficulties due to scheduling, opposite time zones, and different communication styles. To tackle these challenges, I have employed various resources, such as the bond with my Purdue teammates, the connection with SJTU students due to my previous semester abroad experience at SJTU, my professors (Dr. Jensen and Dr. Qiu) for communication technique consultation, and the intercultural learning tools such as the icEDGE (intercultural communication EDGE) survey that I took at the beginning of this project.

The icEDGE survey helped increase my awareness of myself and my own communication style, along with the communication style of my teammates at Purdue and SJTU. I realized that since I have a more indirect communication style than my Purdue teammates, I can use that to communicate efficiently with the SJTU students who also have an indirect communication style. However, when in conflict with my Purdue teammates who have a direct conflict style, I struggle to effectively communicate. To leverage this stress point, I can point out that there are other ways to agree on decisions, and work to use more explicit communication when in conflict. Along with this, a similarity I share with my Purdue teammates is that we have similar interpretation scores and can interpret each other’s implicit messages well. Because of this, when we explain new ideas to each other we’re able to understand even without explicit context. This similarity can be leveraged when meeting with our SJTU teammates. If the SJTU students don’t understand what one of us is saying, someone else can jump in and rephrase the point that was being made. One takeaway from my teamwork experience with this global design project that I think will benefit my career is techniques to better communicate with people with different communication styles, as well as the ability to adjust my style based on the people around me. This project gave me a new appreciation for the necessity of flexibility when working with teammates who have different communication styles. When I talk with my Purdue teammates we use high context communication to quickly get the point across. We all know the context behind what the others are explaining, so we tend to be more implicit. However, when meeting with our SJTU teammates we switch to low context to avoid miscommunication. One strategy we’ve implemented is using different types of communication to explain new ideas: verbal explanations, graphics and pictures, and 3D models and animations. We also write up our ideas along with explanations and questions to send back and forth. In this way we try to overcome the language barrier. Overall, this global design project has been challenging, but has also been very rewarding. I’ve learned a lot about the differences in the design process between the US and China. I’ve also strengthened my cross-cultural communication skills, and learned new strategies to more efficiently communicate in a global team.

VEIL - China Faculty comments:

Prof. Greg Jensen (Director of Senior Design; instructor of the course)

Spring 2021 began a global collaboration between Purdue’s Mechanical Engineering Senior Design (Capstone) program and its counterpart at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. This initial effort, selected two design/analyze/build/test projects (ultra-sonic transducer, ultra-sonic shear) that paired three students from each school (12 students total) to work across time and space to accomplish their respected Senior Design program requirements. Some of the initial challenges were overcoming the month-staggered school start dates, having similar but different program requirements/expectations/deliverables, and finding the correct set of shared collaboration/engineering tools. Now, at mid-semester students are engaged in doing good, effective design, analysis and prototype work. Stay tuned for our next update.

Professor Song Zhang (ME, Assistant Head for Experiential Learning; helped the program initiation)

“The virtual global senior design experiences will help our students learn close to real-world situation as in-person global collaborations become less convenient or more costly even after the pandemic.”

Dr. Wei Qiu ( GEPP, East Asia Program Manager; instructor of the course)

Thanks to the VEIL Grant from Purdue’s International Programs office and CILMAR center, we are very happy to offer our ME students with a hands-on teamwork learning opportunity during the pandemic when student travel is suspended. On top of the design teamwork, the students are encouraged to actively reflect on their teamwork experience from a cross-cultural perspective, by taking the global competence certificate online courses, analyzing team members’ style of intercultural communication via a survey called icEDGE, and incorporating into each team’s final design report insights such as the cultural impact on their design decision-making process. We hope to continue to offer this kind of hands-on international learning opportunity to future students.