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Dec. 14: International Course Will Prepare Civil Engineers for Global Economy


Chriss Swaney

Carnegie Mellon Launches New International Course
To Prepare Civil Engineers for Jobs in Global Economy

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Burcu Akinci and Lucio Soibelman will launch a new capstone project course in January to help civil engineers learn to work in a global environment.     

The International Collaborative Construction Management course (ICCM) will enable student teams from the United States, Brazil, Turkey and Israel to work collaboratively on a variety of international construction projects executed in these countries.     

"The whole idea is to equip our students with the experience and toolkits so essential for competitive success in today's global marketplace," said Soibelman, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and a former Brazilian contractor.     

Soibelman said the course will help students learn about the application of advanced tools for planning an international construction project, motivating co-workers and the importance of overcoming language and cultural barriers in the international marketplace.       

"Students will also learn the importance of information, communication and collaboration technologies as they form their virtual companies and corresponding organization structures and alliances with international teams to develop construction estimates and schedules in a collaborative way," said Akinci, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.    

Antonio Fernandez, a Carnegie Mellon civil engineering alum and senior manager for international projects at Monroeville-based Paul C. Rizzo Associates Inc., praised the new course offering.   

"It's imperative that students learn to work and manage in a global environment because that is the reality for today and tomorrow," said Fernandez, who is fluent in two languages. "The world is becoming a much smaller place as communication and technology shrink time and distance."    

A combination of video conferencing, email and Web-based, asynchronous collaboration tools will keep student teams connected as they navigate a series of construction project-management-related challenges.    

The 14 students, based in the United States, will develop bids and building specs for three separate international projects. The projects include a low-income housing development in Brazil, a light-rail system under way in Turkey and a vehicle tunnel in Israel. Their foreign counterparts will also monitor job bids and participate in interactive project management at the various construction sites in each country. The students will be supported by faculty and industry mentors in all four countries.

"Our Carnegie Mellon students will essentially play the part of an American international company bidding on a variety of jobs which demand the use of international management skills, labor- negotiation techniques and a whole range of engineering and design principles," Soibelman said.

In fact, the new undergraduate course offering has proven to be so popular that Carnegie Mellon's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering also plans to offer a master's-level program on global sustainable construction in 2007. The graduate program seeks to educate future construction industry decision-makers about the long-term sustainability of structures during, before and after the construction phase in a global economy.