IPENG Debuts CQ Assessment Tool with EIA Bridge Program
11/2/2022 11:28:53 AM
By Heather Coit
Five members of the student-led chapter of Engineers in Action Bridge Program at The Grainger College of Engineering took more than their course training with them to the Southern African country of Eswatini last summer. The team, joined by engineering students from the University of Iowa and Virginia Tech, was there to help design and construct the KaZenzele Footbridge with local volunteers in the remote village of Godloza.
To better understand the community’s culture, the Grainger Engineering team took a cultural training course taught by Meredith Blumthal, director of International Programs in Engineering, before their 6-week trip.
Blumthal, who offered similar training to EIA students in 2019 when they traveled to Bolivia, introduced a new cultural intelligence assessment tool from the online Cultural Intelligence Center to help the team prepare for working in the former Swaziland.
“Cultural Intelligence, or CQ, is the capability to function and relate effectively in culturally diverse situations,” Blumthal said. “It gives students a sense of who they are, how they show up and what their own cultural values are,” she said. “It’s also dynamic, meaning that students can improve their CQ over time if they put in the work.”
For Colin Zimmers (B.S. ’24, Engineering Mechanics), who acted as Quality Control Engineer, IPENG’s orientation not only helped him understand his own CQ but the cultural norms and values of the people in Godloza. Creating positive relationships with everyone was key as he and fellow engineering students lived in a homestead with a host family.
“IPENG taught us how to communicate with locals in ways that were friendly and approachable in Eswatini,” Zimmers said. “This was incredibly important for our project because it would not have been possible without the local volunteers.”
These cultural exchanges were a favorite part of the trip for Rachel Chen (B.S. ’25, Civil Engineering), who was the Cultural Relations/Media Manager for the trip.
“The community members were so hospitable and taught us so many things about their culture, including how they eat, how they dance and how they live,” Chen said. “In return, we introduced them to Western music and taught them English,” she said. “These experiences taught me that communication can go beyond words and that the way you represent your culture can say a lot about who you are.”
For those interested in traveling with Engineers in Action or related opportunities, please contact Rachel Chen at email@example.com.