Semester at Sea's New Short-Term Voyage to Address Global Challenges

March 4, 2011 — "Engineering a New Tomorrow," the first short-term Semester at Sea voyage, will explore key global issues during an intensive 26-day shipboard and field-practice curriculum developed in partnership with the University of Virginia.

The academic program is based on the global challenges outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, including sustainable development, food security, energy, water, population, species and ecosystems, and the international economy.

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report by Marian Anderfuren about engineering professor Garrick Louis as Semester at Sea makes a stop in Trinidad and Tobago, where Louis grew up:

Although engineering programs often address the technical aspects of humanitarian problems, the Institute for Shipboard Education has designed an interdisciplinary program that will visualize the "socio-technical" issues and integrate multiple disciplines, considering culture, economics, history, politics and economics.

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report by Marian Anderfuren on a visit to the Panama Canal with engineering professor Ed Berger:

"A lot of good engineering projects have failed because they didn't consider aspects such as religion, the role of women, or the way land is understood," Rosalyn Berne, senior academic officer, said. "Practically speaking, it's more likely that engineering projects will be successful if they have the perspective of other ways of understanding. Semester at Sea provides the learning environment for accomplishing this."

The inaugural short-term program will sail May 20 through June 15 and enroll participants from colleges and universities around the country. The program is suited to all majors and may be of particular interest to students focused on business, commerce and environmental studies. Application requirements can be found on the Semester at Sea website.

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report by Marian Anderfuren on the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean with May Nursing School graduate Emma Mitchell:

During the voyage, participants will enroll in courses aboard the MV Explorer, a floating university campus. They will examine key issues through field studies, service learning and team projects in Port of Spain, Trinidad; Cristobal, Panamá; Puerto Limón, Costa Rica; Puerto Cortés, Honduras; Puerto Barrios, Guatemala; and Belize City, Belize. Particular emphasis will be placed on the Panama Canal expansion – one of the largest-scale engineering projects of the modern era.

"This short-term voyage is the perfect integration of study abroad, service learning, preparation for engineering or any other kind of humanitarian work in a developing community," said Dana Elzey, associate professor of materials science and engineering in U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science, who will serve as academic dean of the voyage.

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report by Marian Anderfuren on engineering professor Pam Norris and students’ visit to the Chiquita biodigester in Costa Rica to learn about global energy:

"You have faculty, all expert in their given areas, who can speak to all the problems that are the theme and focus of the U.N.'s New Millennium Development Goals," he added. "I can't imagine a greater purpose for teaching, or a greater opportunity for learning and scholarship."

Courses will be offered not only in engineering, but also in business, architecture, education, environmental science, politics, public health and sociology. In each port, faculty-directed programs will bring classroom discussions to life.  Excursions will include examining the natural asphalt lake in Trinidad, learning the eco-function of mangroves and rainforests in Costa Rica, and taking part in service learning activities.

J.P. Mohsen, president of the American Society for Engineering Education and professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Louisville, describes the Engineering a New Tomorrow voyage as "an invaluable experience for any student."

"What Semester at Sea brings to life is a first-hand exposure to what needs to be done in other countries to introduce sustainable design," said Mohsen, a member of the voyage planning committee. "In this very short period of time, students will learn lessons that they can extend to the rest of their lives–both professionally and personally."

The inaugural voyage will include 22 faculty members from schools including U.Va., the Colorado School of Mines, the University of Louisville and the University of Pittsburgh.

"The core mission of the Semester at Sea program is to educate individuals with the global understanding necessary to address the challenges of our interdependent world," said Les McCabe, president of the Institute for Shipboard and Semester at Sea. "This voyage presents an unprecedented opportunity to investigate today's most pressing areas of global need."

For information on the program and how to apply, visit the Semester at Sea website.

About Semester at Sea

Semester at Sea® is a premier global education abroad program based in the United States. Since it began in 1963, more than 55,000 college students and lifelong learners have participated in the program, which travels more than 60,000 nautical miles around the world each year. The University of Virginia serves as the program's academic sponsor and provides transferable college credit. Over its 47-year history, Semester at Sea has completed 103 voyages and has achieved a number of significant milestones, including groundbreaking visits to countries such as the former Soviet Union, China, Viet Nam, Cuba, and Myanmar. Participants have met with prominent leaders including Anwar Sadat, Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Corazon Aquino, Fidel Castro, Sidi Mohammed, Mother Teresa, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.