NEH Lecture Series 

Engineering Through a Humanistic Lens Series

The Engineering Through a Humanistic Lens Series is a collection of lectures and panel discussions that is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities funded project “Integrating the Humanities and Global Engineering” (AKA-270141-20) at Purdue University. The project is a collaboration between the School of Languages and Cultures and the Office of Professional Practice/GEARE, and it aims to enhance the education and preparation of global engineers through an expanded role of the humanities (e.g., language, culture, history, sociology, philosophy). During ACIEE 2021, one event from this series will occur each day.

Engineering in Place: The Role of Language and Communication for Problem-solving in Situations of Forced Migration

The scope of forced displacement of communities around the world is huge and growing. The massive amount of migration, whether in emergency or protracted settings, often demands complex solutions to meet crucial community needs. When technical issues arise – for instance, a refugee camp needing an immediate and consistent source of power – solutions are often brought in from an external donor or humanitarian assistance provider. However, displaced communities have a wealth of knowledge and skills. In order for their skills to be applied, language and cross-cultural communication are vital. Language is often a barrier for migrants, but language competency can act as a bridge between diverse displaced communities and in strengthening ties to host communities. This discussion will introduce some of the ways in which language and communication are vital for engineers’ collaboration as they create solutions and build new roots.


Dr. Jennifer DeBoer is currently Associate Professor of Engineering Education and Mechanical Engineering (courtesy) at Purdue University. Dr. DeBoer conducts education research and supports diverse students around the world as they are empowered to access, develop, and meaningfully apply engineering skills in their own communities. She has won multiple awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Education Research Association, the Spencer Foundation, and the US Department of State. During her first year as assistant professor, she received the NSF’s prestigious Early CAREER Award, and in 2017, she received the American Society for Engineering Education Mara Wasburn Women in Engineering Early Engineering Educator Award.


Jennifer Marston William is Professor of German and the Head of the School of Languages and Cultures at Purdue University. In her most recent administrative roles she has supported the development of study abroad programs and curriculum in Languages for Specific Purposes (business and scientific language courses, e.g.). In nearly two decades on the faculty at Purdue, William has taught and mentored numerous Global Engineering students in preparation for their international internships and study abroad experiences. She is currently a planning committee member on the NEH Humanities Connections Planning Grant “Integrating the Humanities into Global Engineering.”