Purdue receives ExxonMobil grant at White House kickoff

December 22, 2015  


Raman White House

Purdue University received one of nine new 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grants at the White House. From left are Marcela Wolf, director of international relations for Universidad EAFIT; Arvind Raman, Purdue's associate dean for Global Engineering Programs; Neal R. Goins, vice president of international government relations for ExxonMobil; and Jeannie Caicedo, director of international relations for Universidad del Norte. (Photo from Partners of the Americas)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University has received one of nine new 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grants sponsored by ExxonMobil to support university partnerships and new study abroad programs.

The grants were announced on Dec. 14 by Vice President Joe Biden and the White House, U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

At the White House to accept the grant was Arvind Raman, Purdue University's associate dean for Global Engineering Programs, the Robert V. Adams Professor of Mechanical Engineering and by courtesy a professor of materials engineering.

The goal of 100,000 Strong in the Americas is to increase the number of U.S. students studying in the Western Hemisphere to 100,000, and the number of Western Hemisphere students studying in the United States to 100,000 by the year 2020. The initiative is aimed at enhancing hemispheric competitiveness, increasing prosperity and preparing a more globally competent workforce, according to a White House statement.

While engineering students study and work abroad in large numbers in East Asia and Europe, few currently study abroad in Latin America.

"The Western Hemisphere including Latin America is on course to become largely middle class and at peace within a generation with rapidly expanding trade and business opportunities for U.S. companies," Raman said. "With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pending in Congress, which includes many Latin American countries, these opportunities are expected to grow significantly. Many employers of Purdue engineering graduates value the ability of engineers to speak Spanish or Portuguese and have an understanding and appreciation of Latin American culture. Not surprisingly, Latin America is currently the fastest growing region in the world as a study abroad destination for U.S. students."

The objective of the current competition, supported by ExxonMobil, is to increase study abroad in engineering, physics, geology and geophysics. The winning higher education institutions submitted innovative proposals intended to create new or to build on existing partnerships that increase study abroad opportunities for STEM students, especially those in the eligible academic fields of study from six countries. The competition was open to institutions in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana and Mexico. The investigators on Purdue's proposal are Virginia Booth Womack, director of the Minority Engineering Program; Eckhard Groll, director of the Office of Professional Practice and Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Brent Jesiek, associate director of the Office of Global Engineering Programs and an associate professor of engineering education and electrical and computer engineering; James D. Jones, associate head and associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Raman, principal investigator.

“The Purdue Minority Engineering Program has historically been recognized for benchmark diversity programs,” said Booth Womack. “We are ecstatic that the Minority Engineering Program has been included in this opportunity to expose more underrepresented minority students to study abroad opportunities.”   

Purdue will use its grant to expand its study abroad program in Colombia initially. The university will partner with Universidad EAFIT in Medellín, Colombia, and Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia. In subsequent years, the program will expand to one or two additional partners beyond Colombia.

"A special emphasis is placed on addressing the special needs of our minority engineering students and on increasing the number of internship and research opportunities that can help transform their study abroad experiences," Raman said. "I am particularly proud that Purdue is the only one among the top 20 or so engineering colleges in the nation that have received a grant from this program."

Purdue will work to develop an integrated plan of investment, cooperation and assessment to increase the annual number of Purdue engineering students who undertake semester or longer experiences in Latin America, and particularly in Colombia. Through the grant, Purdue will build on its strategic strengths and use its network of connections in Colombia as a launching pad to scale up inclusive, sustainable and transformative study abroad experiences for both U.S. and Colombian students in the partnership, Raman said.

"We have worked collaboratively on the College of Engineering's global strategic plan and have successfully co-led a trip to Colombia," said Michael Brzezinski, dean of Purdue's International Programs. "During and subsequent to this trip faculty from five schools of engineering successfully mapped courses to enhance student mobility, leading to student participation in overseas study."

Colombian students have been coming to Purdue since 2014 through the Undergraduate Research Experience at Purdue-Colombia (UREP-C) program, administered by the Colombia Purdue Institute. The partnership between Purdue and Colombia started in 2010 with creation of the CPI, designed to enhance the scientific and entrepreneurial workforce in Colombia.

A 2015 Open Doors Report on International Education and Exchange revealed the Americas as the fastest growing region of the world for study abroad and also suggests the number of student exchanges in the STEM fields should grow substantially.    

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu 

Source: Arvind Raman, 765-494-5733, raman@purdue.edu 


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