LAWRENCE — University of Kansas School of Engineering students will experience a new education abroad program through a $15,000 start-up grant from IES Abroad.
Kyle Camarda, associate professor of chemical &petroleum engineering, submitted the proposal, "Logistics in Berlin: Optimization and the Cold War," which was selected among a national pool. IES Abroad picked the proposal for its innovative approach to fostering learning in a STEM discipline while actively engaging students in the intellectual, political, cultural and social institutions of the hosting city, country and region. This is the first time IES Abroad has awarded a new program development grant to a KU faculty member.
Taking place in Berlin in summer 2022, the Optimization and the Cold War study abroad program will introduce undergraduates to basic ideas in logistics and optimization theory, its application to scheduling and planning, and a historical context in which logistics was vital to success in geopolitics. The history of divided Berlin, 1945-1989, is a fascinating story of a political island: a city surrounded by a wall, maintained by Allied forces and constrained by the Soviet Empire.
This class will teach the mathematics behind optimal supply chains, scheduling and planning strategies, and constrained logistics that military and civilian planners used to keep the population of Berlin supported and independent of East Germany. It will include visits to many Berlin-area sites connected to the Cold War period, including Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdam and the Glienicke Bridge — known as the Bridge of Spies — the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Gatow airport, used in the famous Berlin Airlift. A guided tour of Cecilienhof Palace, where the famous Potsdam agreement was signed, is also included.
“I hope that this opportunity allows students in the School of Engineering to take advantage of all of the benefits of a study abroad experience while also fulfilling an engineering elective in many majors,” Camarda said.
Across the United States, students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are less likely than students in other majors to participate in education abroad programs. The Institute of International Education (IIE) Open Doors Report on U.S. study abroad released in November 2019 noted that among all U.S. study abroad participants, only 5.5% were engineering majors and 3.2% were mathematics or computer science majors. While participation rates have improved over the past decade, STEM majors remain the most underrepresented among study abroad participants.
At KU, engineering students comprise just 5% of all undergraduate study abroad participants. Yet efforts are underway to expand study, internship and research abroad opportunities for engineering students.
“During the past several years, I have seen a measurable increase in demand for international education by engineering students,” said Charlie Ambrose, a KU Study Abroad & Global Engagement staff member who serves as the principal point of contact for interested students from the engineering school. “The Optimization and the Cold War program will be an excellent addition to a growing portfolio of engineering-based, high-impact international experiences available to School of Engineering students during their studies at KU.”
As KU seeks to expand access to and engagement with international education for all undergraduates, the development of a diverse portfolio of program opportunities for students in the STEM disciplines will remain an area of focus.
“Experiences abroad and the development of intercultural competencies are critical for engineering students who will be tasked with developing technologies to address the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, including new energy technologies, medical advancements, urban infrastructure, environmental sustainability, cyberspace and more,” said Angela Perryman, director of Study Abroad & Global Engagement. “We are excited to partner with the School of Engineering to launch this program for their students.”