More than a year ago, Tamer Breakah, assistant professor of construction management, got a call from a friend in Egypt, Sherif El-Badawy, vice dean for postgraduate studies at Mansoura University. He introduced Breakah to an exciting cultural exchange opportunity for the students. The Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Harnessing Innovation through Virtual Exchange for Enhanced Results (HIVER) 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. At the end of the semester, teams give virtual presentations and finalist travel to Washington, DC, for an in-person presentation.
The students from both institutions attend combined synchronous lectures and work on their own time on a joint project. Faculty members from both universities present materials for the lectures giving their unique expertise based on the climate and materials in their regions. Part of the challenge in the course is navigating time zones and learning cultural differences in communication.
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 is between Ball State University and Mansoura University in Egypt.
“This experience broadened students’ 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,” said Breakah. “Both students and faculty enjoyed the experience”
The topics covered were Management of Highway Projects and Methods and Equipment for Heavy Construction projects.
Faculty chose the 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. Two teams (including BSU students Joe Ochoa and Mia Pomales) placed in the top four and advanced to the in-person competition in Washington in late August 2022. Though the students did not win the competition, going to DC was a great chance for Ball State students to meet their peers from Egypt.