May 18, 2020

NEH awards grant to humanities-engineering collaboration at Purdue University

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $35,000 Humanities Connections planning grant to an interdisciplinary project between the School of Languages and Cultures and the Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education (GEARE) at Purdue University.

The “Integrating the Humanities and Global Engineering” project aims to further integrate language and cultural training into undergraduate global engineering students’ curriculum, thereby better preparing them for experiences abroad and in the global workforce. This will expand upon the training already in place for GEARE students, who study abroad and participate in international internships as part of their course of study.

“All GEARE students study languages already, in preparation for their internships abroad. Our hope with this curricular development project is that students will view the study of languages as much more than just a tool to help them advance their global engineering careers,” said Jen William, head of the School of Languages and Cultures and a member of the project’s planning committee. “We anticipate that with an increased focus on culture, history, human relationships, intercultural understanding and communication, students will better understand how the humanities are inherently essential and indispensable to what they do with engineering and technology.”

Led by project director Lori Czerwionka, associate professor of Spanish and linguistics, and co-director Eric Nauman, professor of mechanical engineering, the committee proposed four curricular initiatives:

  • An engineering design course called “Global Engineering: Humanities-Informed Projects.” This course will maintain the technical rigor of a traditional design course while introducing case studies where students will use culturally aware and historically informed methods to propose solutions.
  • An individualized research course template for cultural engineering research. Utilizing a culturally aware mindset, each GEARE student will complete a unique experiential learning project in their second language during their period abroad.
  • The “Engineering through a Humanistic Lens” speaker series. Experts in research and industry will address School of Languages and Cultures and GEARE students to reinforce the importance of language competency, intercultural communication, and global cultural perspectives.
  • Pre- and post-workshops for students doing internships abroad. Program leaders will utilize the humanistic-engineering perspective in order to improve the effectiveness of existing preparatory and debriefing methods for GEARE students. These assessments will help identify areas where students may need additional support in developing global perspectives and skills.

“Efforts like this NEH-supported project contribute to the growing possibilities at Purdue for students to specialize in diverse fields of study during their undergraduate degrees,” Czerwionka said. “With these options to blend their interests, gain new perspectives, and even complete dual degrees, students are more prepared for their career and life paths.”

The planning committee, which also includes GEARE director Joe Tort and GEARE associate director of global projects Francisco Montalvo, will spend the next year developing their curriculum plan in hopes of applying for additional grants that will support implementing the program in fall 2021.

“This is really the first step,” Nauman said. “We’re hoping to do two or three more grants that just get bigger each time.”

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Writer: David Ching, dching@purdue.edu

Media contact: Joseph Paul, paul102@purdue.edu (working remotely but will provide immediate response)

Sources: Jen William, jmwilliam@purdue.edu

Lori Czerwionka, czerwionka@purdue.edu

Eric Nauman, enauman@purdue.edu

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