Fulbright Scholar Helps Indian Universities Rethink Engineering Education

Professor Claire Komives stands in front of a welcome banner at a university in India. She will again travel to the country as a Fulbright Scholar in fall 2019, when she will visit as many as 75 colleges and universities in hopes of enhancing engineering education.

Professor Claire Komives stands in front of a welcome banner at a university in India. She will again travel to the country as a Fulbright Scholar in fall 2019, when she will visit as many as 75 colleges and universities in hopes of enhancing engineering education.

While San Jose State was recently named as a Fulbright top-producing institution for the number of scholars who visit from other universities, SJSU faculty are regularly award Fulbright grants or awards to visit other countries and universities to conduct research and teach. In 2018, Associate Professor of English Cathleen Miller served as the Distinguished Chair of the Humanities at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom while also studying the phenomenon of women’s migration throughout the world. Humanities Lecturer Victoria Rue visited Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank to teach and conduct scholarly work.

In fall 2019, chemical engineering Professor Claire Komives will travel to India on her second Fulbright Scholar Grant. In 2104-15, she traveled to the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, where she conducted research on creating a low-cost antivenom solution for developing nations. Now she plans to return with a new focus.

“I have proposed to go to India and work with faculty and administrators of engineering colleges to try to improve the quality of teaching,” Komives said, noting that many institutions in India use traditional teaching methods such as lectures and often use outdated curriculum.

She will be bringing a model of education that has proven successful at San Jose State – active, project-based learning.

“I want to try to help them learn about new methods of teaching such as inquiry-based learning,” she said.

Claire Komives, in the center by the screen, offers training on using active learning techniques at the end of her last Fulbright Scholar year in 2014-15.

Claire Komives, in the center by the screen, offers training on using active learning techniques at the end of her last Fulbright Scholar year in 2014-15.

Near the end of her first Fulbright experience, she went to an Indo Universal Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE) conference, where she arrived was invited to give one workshop on active learning and she ended up giving eight workshops in different cities all over the country.“I met so many faculty who really want to learn to be better teachers,” she said.

From there, she developed an Effective Teaching workshop that became part of a certificate program for faculty. For this next phase of the project, Komives will be based in Mumbai, but will travel to as many as 75 universities and colleges so she can give workshops, engage in peer review of teaching through class visitations and generally sharing how to make class more interactive and effective.

“There is so much poverty in India,” Komives said. “Right now only five percent of students graduating from the more than 3,000 private engineering colleges are employable…If they can be employable they can actually contribute in the Indian economic system and help to raise their families up.”

Another benefit of her work on enhancing engineering education in India?

“Some of our students are coming from these types of universities,” she said. “So working with the faculty will help the professors there educate students more effectively who may then be coming to graduate programs here.”