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October 22, 2012
By Mike Wolterbeek
After driving the Bullet Train in the Beijing Jiaotong University engineering lab's full-size simulator, five University of Nevada, Reno engineering students got a quiet, luxurious 300 mph ride on the actual Bullet Train from Beijing to Tianjin and back.
The undergraduate students, participating in an exclusive summer camp for international students, toured the world-class wind tunnel facility and a half-dozen other labs at the prestigious university in China's capital city. They attended technical lectures in the mornings and toured cultural attractions and construction sites in the afternoons.
"The technical sessions were like a typical college classroom, but seeing the labs, touring engineering projects around the city - we realized how isolated we can be in Reno and how quickly they've developed there; kind of an engineering shock," Amaad Sulharia, a sophomore at the University of Nevada, Reno and McQueen High School graduate, said.
"It's important for our students to get global perspective and training, whether they go to work for a global company, do business from Nevada with an international company or engage in research after graduation," Dean Manos Maragakis of the College of Engineering said. "This will help put them at the top of their field, whether it's civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering or computer and science engineering. This will help them to be successful in the increasingly competitive workplace."
As part of its global initiative, the college's global presence for research and teaching is growing. The college has entered into student exchange agreements with universities in China, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Germany, enabling Nevada students to study internationally, as well as bringing students to Nevada from other parts of the world.
"The summer camp was a fantastic experience," Kelly Rini, a senior civil engineering student from Las Vegas, said. "The technical lectures were useful, and then we got to see the application of the methods we were shown in the lectures at construction sites throughout the city in the afternoon field trips."
The students visited the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and National Stadium with thirty other students from around the world. They learned about the culture of the country and how engineering students are educated, trained and enter the workforce. It opened horizons for them and opened their eyes to what's beyond Reno and the Sierra Nevada.
"As a student, it is very easy to become boxed into a world of excessive amounts of homework and local knowledge," Sulharia, who is studying chemical engineering, said. "I was blessed that the College of Engineering allowed me to attend this International Engineering Camp in Beijing. Not only did I learn technical aspects through the lectures in the mornings, but I grew so much as an engineer and most importantly as a person. Learning about the culture, as well as the civil engineering side of things, was a skill that could only be acquired through a program like this. I learned to network with students worldwide and now have contacts in four different countries."
The enthusiasm was echoed by his fellow McQueen High School graduate and native Nevadan Denver Lui.
"We made friendships from around the world, engineering students from at least seven other countries," Lui, who is a computer science and engineering student, said. "It was a good experience to see what civil engineering is all about, and in other parts of the world, too. It was a great experience; I didn't want it to end."
This is just what the dean was hoping to hear.
"This is so thrilling to see the student's enthusiasm for the summer program," Maragakis said. "While some students may be reluctant to travel, once they do, the experience gives them a greater perspective. That's important. It's wonderful and affirming to see the program is so successful."
In keeping with its strategic objective of offering a globally competitive engineering education, the College of Engineering has established exchange programs with universities in Asia and Europe, including Kookmin University in South Korea, Ingolstadt University of Applied Sciences in Germany, Beijing Jiaotong University in China and the TECNUN School of Engineering at the University of Navarra in Spain.
Maragakis recently traveled on a trade mission to China and South Korea with Governor Brian Sandoval where he made many valuable contacts.
"I met with many people important to the mission of our college, our University and our state," Maragakis said. "The trade mission helped us towards our global objectives by providing the opportunity to interact with major industries in China and Korea, present the many assets of the University of Nevada, Reno and establish collaborative educational agreements with many universities, which will provide unique opportunities to our students and faculty."
He initiated discussions for the establishment of other collaborative efforts and is in negotiations with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Dankook University and Ewha Woman's University in Korea.
"The doors we opened with the governor will help us far into the future," Maragakis said.
The collaborations will trade engineering knowledge through research agreements and create opportunities for additional student exchange programs, with programs possible in Turkey and India.
"We are getting global engineering experience for the students; this is a very global discipline," Indira Chatterjee, professor and associate dean of engineering, said. "We are excited to have these programs to offer to students to enable them to function or interact with engineers all over the world."
"Besides sending students abroad, we bring international students here to learn from us," Chatterjee said.
Two students from Spain are here now taking courses in computer science and engineering and electrical engineering. Last fall, the College of Engineering hosted two students from Beijing Jiaotong University in China who took classes in civil engineering and one student from Kookmin University who took mechanical engineering courses.
In his inauguration speech, University President Marc Johnson talked about the challenges earlier university presidents have faced and the adversities students may face today with education, research and entering the workforce.
"Our times are just as challenging today with globalization, world turmoil and economic volatility," Johnson said. "It is imperative that this University immerse our students in today's global challenges to help them think accurately, and discern clearly, the paths they wish to follow if they are to lead future generations."