3.6 Integrating Cultural Experience with a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Learning for Undergraduate Students under the U.S. Naval Academy Language Skills, Regional Expertise, and Cultural Awareness (LREC) Program

Monday, 23 January 2017: 5:15 PM
Conference Center: Yakima 2 (Washington State Convention Center )
Joseph P Smith, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD; and B. S. Barrett, D. Kriebel, and T. Disher

The U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) International Programs Office supports faculty development of short-term (10-day to 3-week) Language Skills, Regional Expertise, and Cultural Awareness (LREC) education immersion trips. The primary goals of these LREC trips are for USNA undergraduate student participants (Midshipmen) to: (1) increase understanding of cross-cultural dynamics; (2) increase adaptability to foreign cultures and interoperability with maritime partner nations; and/or (3) increase language and communication capabilities.  Under the USNA LREC program, faculty from the USNA Oceanography Department and the Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Department have been successful in combining cultural learning with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning as the core element of trips to Chile, Vietnam, and Guatemala.  During these trips, students were empowered s to make leadership decisions (where to go, how to get there, why to go) at multiple stages both before and during the trips and were encouraged to engage directly with their international collaborators on STEM topics. 

In Chile, students interacted with operational meteorologists at the Chilean National Weather Service and visited field sites to observe the climatological diversity of the country. In Vietnam, students interacted and engaged with Vietnamese citizens, scientists, engineers, and students involved in international S&T collaboration in the areas of Energy and Coastal Oceanography. In Guatemala, students collaborated with Guatemalan Navy in the design of a coastal engineering solution to sedimentation and erosion at the main Guatemalan Pacific Naval Base at Puerto Quetzal. 

Upon return from each LREC experience, faculty leaders advised undergraduates in independent research capstone projects on topics that emerged during the trips. Several of those theses resulted in peer-reviewed publications in top (STEM) journals. Also, pre-and post-trip surveys showed changes in how students view the world both from a cultural perspective and a STEM perspective.  Assessment data, feedback, and other products from these USNA LREC Program trips and plans and goals for future STEM-based LREC experiences will be presented to show the value of these trips to students, faculty, and international partners.  Results will demonstrate a successful model for the integration of cross-cultural learning with STEM disciplines that, especially in the case of USNA Midshipmen, will help develop future leaders with an increased cultural awareness and rich STEM background that will benefit them in their future careers.

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