A strong contingency of international engineering students represents Iowa State’s current student body.
The Society of International Engineers seeks to integrate these students into the Iowa State community and to encourage international study for domestic students.
“[The Society of International Engineers] was created about 11 years ago by students who were working in our office at that time,” said Shannon Miner, program coordinator for the college of engineering international programs as well as faculty adviser for Society of International Engineers.
Society of International Engineers, a student organization unique to Iowa State, has a threefold mission in promoting diversity and international experience for those in the college of engineering.
One goal resides in “promoting study abroad to domestic students,” said Alex Hansche, a senior civil engineering major and student adviser for Society of International Engineers.
To do so, Society of International Engineers has three meetings per semester, also known as cafes. Cafe stands for Creating A Fellowship of Engineers, a phrase that encapsulates Society of International Engineers’s foundation.
“That’s pretty much what our mission is, to create connections between people from different cultures who are also engineers,” Hansche said.
Each of the three cafes has a different focus, although one is commonly set aside to provide information for prospective study abroad students.
In that particular cafe, “the students who have already studied abroad have opportunities to share their experiences,” Miner said.
Points commonly iterated by past study abroad students, as well as by the college of engineering international programs office, revolve around the importance of international experience.
“Getting that international experience is going to make you that much more prepared for the future because the skills and the experiences that you gain from going abroad are useful throughout the rest of your life,” Miner said.
Aside from encouraging more students to attain international experience, Society of International Engineers maintains a second emphasis on “making Iowa State a welcoming home to international exchange students,” Hansche said.
Given the inherent differences between cultures, providing a smoother transition for incoming exchange students is of high significance.
“A lot of our international students, many of them didn’t go to school in the [United States], so the [U.S.] style of education is new and different. [Society of International Engineers] gives them an opportunity to learn more about that from their domestic peers,” Miner said.
In particular, international students have the opportunity to benefit from a program within Society of International Engineers, the Partners Program.
“What we do with the Partners Program is we pair an exchange student that’s here for a semester or a year with a domestic student, and we kind of pair them up based on common interest,” Hansche said.
Hansche said that students are often paired based on a common language, major or any other facet that would lend well to an easier transition for a new international student.
Lastly, beyond promoting domestic students to explore the world, as well as to welcome incoming international students to Ames, Society of International Engineers seeks to “welcome home students who have just returned from their time abroad,” Hansche said.
A way the college of engineering, along with Society of International Engineers, achieves this is through a “bon voyage” event.
In this semester-ending celebration, “we wish international students off as they return home or as domestic students come home from their international experiences,” Miner said.
These events are of significant stature, as 200 ISU engineering students studied internationally in the past academic year.
“That is a very good number for an engineering school when you compare what we’re doing with other engineering schools across the [United States],” Miner said.
A contributing factor to this statistic is the efforts of Society of International Engineers.
“This was a grassroots organization that’s grown over the years," Miner said. "I think that our students do such a great job. We’ve got a great leadership team this semester. I continue to be impressed by all the good work that they’re doing.”