Women, Water, and International Experiential Learning


Recruiting women for engineering and science programs is a major focus for many U.S. universities and for our nation in general. Studies have shown that there are specific actions that can be taken to improve those recruiting efforts including K-12 outreach, presenting engineering and science as #caring# professions, and providing hands-on opportunities for students. An academic program at the University of Missouri - Rolla incorporates these concepts in a program focused on development of safe water supplies in the highlands of Guatemala. Women As Global Leaders is a multi-year learning community class that has local and international experiential learning elements. Students from a variety of engineering, science, and business programs participate in an interdisciplinary class which includes fund-raising, community outreach and awareness including K-12, and data collection and analysis. Students in the course may elect to travel with upper division students from a capstone engineering design class to Guatemala to participate first hand in the international experience. Safe water supplies are an ideal topic for women students in the U.S. because women are traditionally responsible for supplying water for their families in many developing countries. Cultural awareness of water-based gender roles in other countries may be a unifying theme for women across national boundaries. The results of a pre-college yield analysis indicate that 79 percent of women participating in a K-12 outreach event eventually enrolled in a science or engineering program at the University of Missouri - Rolla. The Guatemala water supply experiential learning class provides additional opportunities for K-12 outreach including international correspondence (pen pal) experiences between Guatemalan and U.S. students. Perhaps the most important result is that, in collaboration with the capstone design class and U.S.-based non-government agencies, two safe water supplies have been developed in Guatemala and additional efforts to reduce infant-mortality and other water-borne disease are in progress.

Meeting Name

Safe Drinking Water: Where Science Meets Policy -- Environmental Symposium of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2006: Mar. 16-17, Chapel Hill, NC)


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


Podium presentation

Keywords and Phrases

K-12 Outreach; Capstone Engineering Design; Infant-Mortality; Safe Water; Cultural awareness; Experiential learning

Document Type


Document Version


File Type





© 2006 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2006

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