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New partnerships expand engineering study abroad opportunities

Mizzou engineering students Emily Reinbott (left) and Morgan Elliott explore the city in Kiev, Ukraine. They were part of a group of students that attended the KPI science-intensive summer school in Kiev in August. Photo courtesy of Vlad Likholetov

While the chance to study abroad is a dream for many students, having the time to dedicate to a program often makes a trip overseas unattainable for time-crunched engineering students. The University of Missouri’s College of Engineering is designing several short-term study abroad opportunities for students who may not have a semester to take off, but do have a few weeks.

Opportunities currently available include destinations such as Ireland, Egypt and Ukraine, and MU Engineering’s Study Abroad Director JR Swanegan said the college is working on expanding to more sites across the globe.

Swanegan and members of the engineering faculty have collaborated to find and create opportunities for engineering students to travel abroad, without having to worry about taking time away from their classwork.

Vlad Likholetov, a research assistant professor and director of international partnerships, is helping to create a program with Kiev Polytechnic Institute (KPI) in Kiev, Ukraine. A pilot program was organized this summer for the first set of students to visit the country and attend the KPI science-intensive international summer school over a two-week period in August.

While there, students spent five hours of every day in a classroom, followed by social activities, excursions and cultural events in the evening. Students also had time for informal interaction with a group of participants from multiple countries, including Poland, Denmark and Georgia.

This first set, Likholetov said, also was used to test how the program would operate. Likholetov, Swanegan and Lex Akers, associate dean for academic programs within the college, performed a site visit at KPI during the last few days of the program.

Talks for a Kiev program began last year with discussions between Mizzou and KPI Rector Michael Zgurovsky, academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

“I hosted [Zgurovsky] and arranged meetings with MU Engineering Dean Jim Thompson and administrators,” Likholetov said. “That day, we signed an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with KPI.”

Likholetov said the process required extensive organization prior to sending students abroad, including identifying faculty that could provide the education that was the right fit for the program.

“It’s a matchmaking effort,” Likholetov said. The collaborations involved not only finding the faculty who had the time to dedicate to the students, but also find ones whose expertise reflected exactly what the students needed to learn.

Senior chemical engineering student Morgan Elliott, who traveled with the pilot program, said the experience was a good learning opportunity.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to study under professors from all over the world,” Elliott said. “There were professors from Sweden, Japan, Ukraine, Poland, Italy and France. Some of the professors lectured on numerous days, so you really got a good idea of either what they were studying or the topic they were covering.”

Students on this pilot, trip spent two weeks on the campus of Kiev Polytechnic in Kiev, Ukraine, attending classes for five hours every day of the trip and participating in numerous social and cultural activities

Goals

Offering short-term study abroad is a way to reach out to students, but also to offer them a more specified course of study to better reflect their disciplines. The programs are also meant to blend several competencies usable later in life, Likholetov said.

“We say we’ll deliver a comprehensive set of skills in addition to the engineering core,” he said.

An engineering core is central to the program. Integrated into this core are international learning and industry, business and entrepreneurial experiences that are gained through company site visits or meetings with various CEOs and/or industrial leaders in that county or simply through excursions out into the city or locale being visited. .

This provides a much “higher quality” course of study in the shorter amount of time relevant for engineering students.

Elliott said in addition to the material she learned from lectures, there was also time for her to explore the city, sometimes in organized student outings.

“The students in charge had organized numerous activities for the participants to go to after lectures, ranging from old churches to go visit to a night riverboat tour,” she said. “At night, all the students in the hostel would usually do something together: sometimes we would grab dinner together, go shopping in town or just hang out socialize and play cards.”

Mizzou Engineering’s study abroad program invites faculty members to get involved and collaborate on additional trips to sites in areas of their interest and expertise.



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