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Find Your EDGEs finds a third-place prize

A group of well-dressed people pose for photos with big checks.

Tojan Rahhal, the College of Engineering’s director of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives, and Miguel Ayllon, the College’s former director of International Programs and current interim director of study abroad and interim assistant director of the International Center, recently earned third place in the Diversity Abroad Innovation Competition with their program, “Find your EDGEs with Engineering, Diversity, Global Experiences and Service!” Ayllon and Rahhal can be found in the far left of the front row. Photo courtesy of Tojan Rahhal.

When educating well-rounded future engineering leaders, global experience can be a huge boost to their inclusive leadership skills. And a pair of Ph.D.s with ties to Mizzou Engineering developed a study abroad curriculum to give MU students the opportunity to learn those critically important lessons.

Tojan Rahhal, the College of Engineering’s director of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives, and Miguel Ayllon, the College’s former director of International Programs and current interim director of study abroad and interim assistant director of the International Center, recently earned third place in the Diversity Abroad Innovation Competition with their program, “Find your EDGEs with Engineering, Diversity, Global Experiences and Service!” For their efforts, they received $1,000 to help fund the continued development and growth of the program.

Find Your EDGEs combines the expertise areas of both of its founders — engineering for Rahhal and social science for Ayllon — in order to provide hands-on training in leadership, diversity and project management skills in a global context.

“Our different academic expertise and personal ethno-cultural backgrounds contributed to the success of the EDGEs program,” Ayllon explained. “Tojan is an Arab-American engineer, and I am a Latino social scientist. We used our different worldviews and approaches to problem-solving to challenge our students to work as a team, appreciate their unique backgrounds and solve complex problems together.”

The initial group of student participants traveled to Panama to work with Engineers Without Borders on a water pipeline service project as part of the curriculum. This allowed them to build their cultural competency and intercultural development while growing their leadership and professional development skills. After a successful pilot program this year, the plan is for the program to expand into other regions of the world as well as partner with various additional service-oriented student organizations.

“Usually study abroad programming is looked at in silos; however, EDGEs used an interdisciplinary approach on combining diversity, international experience and service — meaning encouraging students who don’t typically study abroad to start studying abroad,” Rahhal said. “Our program looked at the flip side — how do you prepare those students who do study abroad to be more culturally competent at home and abroad so that they do actually take in their entire experience and engage in the different cultures?”

The program is an example of the broader effort in Mizzou Engineering to help students develop not only their engineering acumen, but robust and diverse leadership skills that will help them excel once they enter the workforce. Programs such as Find Your EDGEs are a vitally important part of that mission.

“With the design of more innovative hands-on global engineering programs like the EDGEs, the MU College of Engineering is well positioned to become a national hub to educate globally minded and inclusive engineering leaders,” Rahhal explained.

“This program will contribute to the state of Missouri’s economy by providing global and diverse global leaders for the competitive 21st Century market.,” Ayllon added.

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