More than a year ago, I got a call from a friend in Egypt, who introduced me to a cultural exchange opportunity for our students. After discussing the idea with him, I found this opportunity to be an excellent fit for our students. The Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Harnessing Innovation through Virtual Exchange for Enhanced Results (HIVER) is a virtual grant competition in which a course or a course component is taught and attended by faculty and students from a U.S. institution and an institution from the middle east and north Africa (MENA) region. The students from both institutions attend combined synchronous lectures and work on their own time on a joint project. Each group includes students from both institutions, and they work together to make a presentation for the two-phase competition. Phase one is a virtual presentation by student teams judged by IIE representatives and phase two, finalist from the virtual presentations travel to Washington, DC, for an in-person presentation.

The proposal was submitted to IIE and was awarded funding that will renew every semester for up to two years for the project. The collaboration was between Ball State University and Mansoura University in Egypt.

The first two iterations were offered as a one credit elective during Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. The topics covered were Management of Highway Projects and Methods and Equipment for Heavy Construction projects. This experience broadened student’s knowledge about different places and different cultures by working in diverse teams with students from other countries and experienced instructors from other institutions and backgrounds. The students worked on overcoming barriers like time zones, cultural differences, and majors. We received positive feedback from the student during this experience.

THE COMPETITION

We chose our two best teams to present in the virtual presentation phase of the competition. The presentations are judged on both the technical and cultural exchange aspects of the project and only four are selected to continue to the in-person presentations in Washington, DC. Our two teams (including BSU students Joe Ochoa and Mia Pomales) placed in the top four and will advance to the in-person competition in Washington in late August 2022.

This experience was both fun and enriching for the students and me.

By Tamer Breakah
Assistant Professor of Construction Management