It’s hard to believe, but we are now at the halfway point of the semester. By now, the grades in most classes have firmed up. Students may be able to raise their grade by one letter, but the grade improvement opportunities are becoming fewer.
As I have been registering students, I had several students ask me about taking classes back home this summer.
■Taking a class at home this summer is a wise move especially if it helps them get caught up.
■They need to have these courses approved in advance. Their advisor can help with this.
■Students need to have a 2.00 GPA to take classes at another school.
■Grades will transfer from all approved universities.
■Students cannot use the D/F repeat ruleat another school if they had a D or F in a class at WVU. The exception is WVU Tech and PotomacState.
If you need advice on any of this, just let me know.
I would also like to share with you my thoughts about a subject that every university in the country will focus on. The subject is cultural diversity. Our students will work in a world economy, and they will interact with people from different cultures so cultural diversity is an important subject for them.
In my classes, I teach each semester, I have students from around the world. Every semester I have students from all over the world. In addition, I have students who have one or both parents who immigrated to America. Students from the U.S. include students from rural and urban communities. I have had students representing every major religion. Our class rooms are really an example of how the world economy has developed. In West Virginia as is the case in many states, a significant number of manufacturing jobs are in businesses which have headquarters in other countries. Virtually all of our students will have international assignments in their careers. I’ve attached a photo of the places of origin components of the Dreamliner aircraft made by Boeing in South Carolina. You would likely see a similar chart for other engineered products.
Universities often approach the subject of cultural diversity by requiring a course that focuses on the subject. I haven’t found these courses to be particularly helpful to students. I’ve never believed that “sheep dip” types of experiences to be that useful.
Our students will experience cultural diversity as a part of their day-to-day activities in our college. I think these experiences can be more important than a class. We are perhaps one of the most culturally diverse colleges on campus. Students who come from large population centers will be working with students from very rural areas. Students will be working with classmates from different countries. Students will be taught by faculty who were trained in an educational system that is different from that in the United States. It’s amazing to see friendships develop between students from these different backgrounds including those who come from countries that are at odds with each other. For example, you will see students from Pakistan and India playing cricket together. In one day, I’ll meet with students whose home countries have hostilities.
These day-to-day cultural exchanges will become another of those educational experiences that students will acquire but probably not recognize. When they start their career they will value the experience as they are asked to work in cultures very different from where they grew up.
To help our students get the most out of the cultural experiences available to them, I offer the following suggestions:
- Try to work with students of different backgrounds on projects. This is a great way to learn how other cultures work and think.
- Get to know our international faculty. Many of these faculty are outstanding teachers and can be very helpful mentors.
- Participate in the engineering student organization Engineers Without Borders. This group, modeled on the Doctors Without Borders group, will travel to another country and do an engineering project.
- Take one of the University classes that involves travel to another nation.
- Look into doing a Study Abroad semester.
- Participate in the many International Student programs during the year.
- Obtain a Certificate of Global Competencies – This is a new certificate program in our college.
In many respects, the University campus is a reflection of the multicultural society our students will be living and working in. I hope they take advantage of the opportunities to widen their experiences.
Let me conclude with the story of Yoshii. Yoshii came to the United States from Japan. He started his studies in the United States in high school. By the time I taught him, he was very fluent in English.
Yoshii quickly adopted to the United States culture (somewhat to the detriment of his grades). His best friends were American classmates. He really assimilated himself into our culture.
When Yoshii was a senior, he requested that I assign him to a Japanese factory as his senior internship. I found a project for him nearWheeling, WV. When I took Yoshii to the plant for the first time, I was fascinated to see how he changed. It was like we were in Japan when Yoshii met the factory’s Japanese leaders.
After Yoshii made his first full-day visit to the factory, he came to my office. “Dr. Byrd,” he said. “I can’t do this project.” When I asked him what the problem was, he told me he had a problem with language. I was confused by this since Yoshii’s English ability was really good. Yoshii then told me that it wasn’t the English he was having trouble with, it was the Japanese. Apparently there is a formal Japanese spoken in business that Yoshii hadn’t learned when he left Japan.
For the rest of the year, Yoshii and the Japanese management would meet at a local “greasy spoon” restaurant for lunch and teach each other the language skills they needed.
The image of that restaurant is really the image I have in my mind when I think of how our national economy has evolved. Yoshii has now returned to Japan and is an operations leader for Proctor and Gamble, one of America’s classic businesses.