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The Rising Sophomore Abroad Program: Opportunities for Innovative Teaching and Research

Abstract: Engineering work is becoming more global in nature, requiring engineers to collaborate with colleagues, suppliers, and customers from around the world. Traditional engineering programs make little space for students to engage in study abroad, language minors, or other opportunities for developing global competence. One example of a program trying to address these challenges is the Rising Sophomore Abroad Program (RSAP), a global program designed for first year engineering students at Virginia Tech. RSAP combines a Spring semester course in global engineering practice with a two-week trip abroad at the end of the semester, and has grown from 20 to 180 students in the past five years.  The RSAP program presents unique opportunities for innovative teaching and research, and this talk will provide an overview of both topics. First, it will describe the course content, logistics, and assessment activities that make up the program. Second, it will highlight two research projects that have explored student experiences and learning outcomes in the program. One project followed up with RSAP alumni as they were graduating from college to understand how RSAP had influenced their subsequent college experiences. The second project explored the different paths students take through the program using a mixed-methods approach combining cluster analysis of cultural intelligence data with analysis of student journals.


Bio: Kirsten Davis is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also completed her master's degree in Higher Education. She is the graduate assistant for the Rising Sophomore Abroad Program, a global engineering course and study abroad program for first year engineering students. Her primary research interests are global engineering programs, developing intercultural competency in engineering students, and international higher education.