An Adventure in Confidence

Shan Jiang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State University, launched the Graduate-Undergraduate Mentoring Program to provide professional development for international students and build community between international and domestic graduate students.

The program’s two major goals focus on giving international students an outlet to practice their social skills and for students to feel more comfortable reaching out to others. Program participants attended workshops and engaged in networking.

 

Announcer
Welcome to Factor Analysis, an in-depth conversation of engineering knowledge from the classroom to the field, and topical issues surrounding work and life from an engineer’s viewpoint.

Madeline McGarry
I’m Madeline McGarry, and I’ll be your host for this episode of Factor Analysis. Today we’re highlighting a recently piloted College of Engineering program with a peculiar acronym. The Graduate-Undergraduate Mentoring Program, also known as GUMP, is focused on bringing together international and domestic students on campus to improve their cultural competency. For professionals in the engineering industry, many can attest to the need for strong STEM skills to be marketable. hireable, even effective at what they do, but a 2017 Google study suggests there’s more to a tech company’s recipe for success than computers and math. After crunching some data through a company-wide research endeavor, Google found that soft skills were ultimately the key to success for the company’s highest performing teams. Dr. Shan Jiang, Assistant Professor of Material Science and Engineering established GUMP using the Google study as the foundation.

Shan Jiang
The program was launched in response to the College of Engineering call for proposals for including international students on the campus. The goal is really to help international students, undergraduate students mingle with domestic students and help them be more engaged with Iowa State community.

Madeline McGarry
Three key components round out the GUMP program and focus on strengthening interpersonal communication and understanding multiculturalism. ISU grad Dr. Patricia Tice of Etiquette Iowa leads training sessions on how to initiate conversation, share personal introductions, and even the proper handshake.

Dr. Patricia Tice
We had an idea of how we wanted the students to learn, but Shan and I talked about it and we thought the best way to really help the students to grow and to develop from this program was to fit the program to them, instead of having them fit to the program.

Madeline McGarry
PhD student Millicent Hoback first learned about the GUMP program from Dr. Jiang and was immediately interested.

Millicent Hoback
I was really excited. I’m like, yes. This is my opportunity for me to be able to understand the American culture, as a Kenyan, and be able to learn how do I network and socialize with Americans without also being, without also feeling left out in the process,

Madeline McGarry
Participating in GUMP under the guidance of Dr. Tice allowed Millicent to instill a new level of confidence in herself. As an international student, she was eager to learn about American culture and become more comfortable interacting with people from different backgrounds.

Millicent Hoback
I got the confidence that I can walk into a room and say “hi” and be sensitive enough to not offend you from a different culture, but at the same time be able to express what I love as a person. What do I enjoy? And how do we, you know, how do we proceed for how do we collaborate and proceed beyond this? You know, beyond just meeting and being shy on that corner.

Dr. Patricia Tice
I saw a few of the really shy students almost come alive, almost be really confident. You know, that’s a continuing thing, but they were more confident. I saw them communicating in a better way. I saw them holding doors for people, and I still hear from some of them, too. And that’s a real compliment because it tells me they have grown, and that’s what we want them to do. We want them to grow into the best people they can be.

Madeline McGarry
Another component of GUMP is “culture coaching”. Going beyond learning from lectures and textbooks, students engage with each other to better understand American culture and customs.

Shan Jiang
Imagine, these students, after they finish the courses, they graduate, where they go, they will either join workforce in America or go back to their own country. If they join the workforce in America without understanding culture. I don’t think they will be very successful in American company. If they go back to their country without knowing American culture and what could they bring back?

Madeline McGarry
For Kyle Miller, PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering, GUMP equipped him with the cultural competencies he needs to be successful in his professional life. He says the program’s focus on uniting graduate and undergraduate students from both America and abroad is what makes GUMP so unique.

Kyle Miller
I think that the biggest impact is, it’s something where I get to experience different cultures and build my appreciation for diversity in the workplace. As a graduate student here I have a lot of interaction with diverse workplaces and a lot of my labmates are in international or other minorities. So it’s very helpful to sort of have a formal setting to really think about how our different cultures inform our lifestyles, our mannerisms, everything we do, different attitudes we have when we approach situations.

Shan Jiang
Understanding the culture and make friends, especially making friends with people from different background really will enrich their learning experience, and I view it’s very important, and I don’t think we, they have a lot of opportunity to do that, if not, if they’re not actively seeking that.

Madeline McGarry
Other activities in GUMP focus on manners for many environments, from the dinner table to a professional business setting.

Shan Jiang
This is a really formal dinner setup. We actually did it in the tea house. It’s really fun because also the tea house the, the students from that department is serving, so it becomes an interesting environment because the students doing their training for serving the dinner, and we go there to train students how to behave in the dinner settings. Dr. Tice really did a wonderful job and teaching people how you should behave.

Madeline McGarry
GUMP leaders and participants agree, the people in the program have made it a successful, memorable and impactful experience for everyone involved.

Shan Jiang
I myself was international student, when I first came to United States. It’s a large population out there. They are also organic part of the campus, I have to say, they contribute to our culture and our learning experience here. And what’s more important is that they came all the way from all over the world. But if they’re just separate by themselves, then it defeats the purpose of coming here to study. They can do it online and just look at the textbook. What’s the point what come into the campus? They are missing their opportunity to understand American culture and for the masters students, they are missing the opportunity to interact with these international students and understand different cultures on campus. So I think that’s really, very important, not just for the international student to learn the courses, but also to interact more with all students on the campus.

Dr. Patricia Tice
After a while, we all tend to forget the exams we took, the grades we got, but we do remember the people who changed our lives, there is a phrase that’s etched into the circular stairway at the Memorial Union, “We come to college alone, not to learn how to make a living, but to learn how to live a life.” For our international students who are part of our family. I think it’s important for them to learn how to live a life, and for them to know that there are people at Iowa State University who genuinely care about them and want them to be successful. And we want to give them specific memories where they can look back on that.

Madeline McGarry
And as you look back on this episode of Factor Analysis, hopefully you’ll decide to click that subscribe button. Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you again soon on Factor Analysis.

Announcer
Factor Analysis is produced by Iowa State University’s College of Engineering. For a list of ways to keep up with the college including more podcasts, social media and apps, go to engineering.iastate.edu. Music by Lee Rosevere, and use under Creative Commons license.

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