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NIU engineers grant for study in the Americas

October 2, 2014

100000StrongNorthern Illinois University and its partner, Universidad de La Sabana, were among eight winners of 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grants announced at the Partners of the Americas’ 50th Anniversary Convention. U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde announced the winners to more than 400 leaders and volunteers from the Association of Bi-National Centers of Latin America in Florianopolis, Brazil.

“The grant will help facilitate faculty-led study abroad programs for NIU students wishing to study at La Sabana, as well as Colombian students wishing to study at NIU,” said NIU Vice President for International Affairs Ray Alden. “Studying abroad is one of the best educational experiences that a student can have to attain the global perspectives and competencies needed for competing successfully in almost any career in a global economy.”

The $25,000 grant will be used to create a joint faculty-led mobility program in engineering designed to increase awareness of the education and research capacity in Colombia.

Universidad-de-La-SabanaCollege of Engineering and Engineering Technology Dean Promod Vohra was recently invited to Chía, Colombia, to present Engineering: A Global Profession as part of Universidad de La Sabana’s 25th anniversary.

“Engineering is a global profession, and the mobility of engineers across the globe will soon be the norm rather than the exception,” said Vohra, who oversees the U.S. News & World Report’s No. 41-ranked engineering program. “This joint research opportunity with faculty from Columbia will enable our faculty to promote their research in a global environment and in synergy with their Columbian counterparts. Enriching diversity with care and compassion is important to our college, and this grant will work to enrich our college with diversity and collaboration.”

The awards are of $25,000 each, and will leverage commitments by winning colleges and universities to increase student mobility and address institutional barriers that prevent students from studying abroad.

Obstacles to study abroad from the U.S. perspective include safety concerns (perception vs. reality), language barriers (lack of courses offered in English in Latin American institutions), and lack of awareness of educational and research capacity in the region. From the Colombian perspective, the obstacles to be overcome include the lack of affordable mobility opportunities in the U.S., the lack of alternative ways to improve English proficiency and the lack of short-term mobility programs offering credit.

College of Engineering and Engineering TechnologyConsistent with NIU’s “triangle offense,” which seeks to connect NIU students and faculty to the world, the goal of 100,000 Strong in the Americas is for at least 100,000 U.S. students to be studying, training, or researching abroad in the countries of the Western Hemisphere each year by 2020. An equal number of students from other countries in the hemisphere are likewise expected to learn and train in the United States. The initiative is aimed at enhancing hemispheric competitiveness, at increasing prosperity, and at better preparing a globally aware workforce.

“Considering the importance of Latin America to both the U.S. and Chicagoland, as well as the goals of President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas program, we are very happy to be among the group of universities who were selected for this important program,” Alden said.

This fourth round of grant funding was sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation and focused on promoting study abroad in engineering, physics, geology, and geophysics. Higher education institutions in the U.S. partnered with institutions in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico to submit the winning proposals.

Globally, a strong emphasis on education empowers communities and builds the foundation for human progress. A key area of focus for the ExxonMobil Foundation is math and science education because these subjects are — and will increasingly be — the universal languages of the global workplace and are critical tools for success in today’s high-tech world.

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund is a partnership of the U.S. Department of State, NAFSA: Association of International Educators and Partners of the Americas.